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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Eggs Are Down

Let the owl-camming commence! I haven't been watching the Valmont Power Plant Owl Cam too closely, but the last time I checked (about a week ago), an Owl had been coming and going but I figured there would be a bit of a wait for incubation, since the Great Horned Owls there laid eggs February 24 and 28th last year. The owl abandoned those eggs for some reason, but had another clutch going by March 24 with chicks still in the box in early June.

Now I see that there was an egg already laid this year on February 9, and two are there now, with the female spending most of her time incubating. Papa owl is bringing treats now and then, too- check out the vole (or whatever it is) in the second pic below. All good news- I hope they succeed at their first try this year..
Many of you already know about this cam, but if not you'll find it interesting to know that the nesting box is 260 feet up the side of a retired smoke stack at Xcel Energy's Valmont Station in Boulder, Colorado. The stack overlooks the Valmont Reservoir complex (see above), an Important Bird Area especially known for the wintering waterbirds there that take advantage of the open water created by the warm water discharge of the power plant. The box was placed to attract nesting Peregrine Falcons but has had Great Horned Owls use it for years now instead. On the annual Boulder Bird Club mid-winter trip to the reservoir complex, plant engineer Dave Madonna described the difficult efforts that the owls go through when they fly up heavy prey like rabbits or ducks. It takes them multiple stops on ladders on their smokestack or the other two smokestacks nearby, laboring up until they can finally heave the prey into the box for their voracious chicks. I have commented on it before, but I still get a funny mental image of the chicks going through their branching stage, clinging to the perch outside the box or grabbing the ladder 260 feet off the deck. When they finally decide to go for it and fly out, that must be quite the leap of faith.


Tom Arbour said...

Very interesting stuff. Here in Ohio we wouldn't expect great horned owls to nest in that type of situation. (Although our introduced peregrine falcons would love it!)

Tom @ Ohio Nature

Dawn said...

you have a great blog here Bill, really enjoy it!