Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Whooo Visited Alice?

A few evenings ago when Hein and I were sitting out in Alice's patio and she was ignoring us, sitting inside her room, I noticed that the screen on the outside of her patio frame looked loose.  I hoped it wasn't torn loose, so I walked over for a closer inspection.  I found holes and a tear in the screen, plus it was ripped loose from a couple of staples in the wood.  Apparently Alice had had a visitor!

We had three long evenings between work and programs that week, so it could have easily happened when we weren't home.  Or it could have happened when we were sleeping...we don't hear things so well on that end of the house even though our bedroom windows are open since our bedroom is on the opposite side of the house.

I tried to think what the possibilities were for the maker of the holes.  Of course my first thought was that an owl had stuck its talons though the screen.  I've seen talon holes in our screen from Alice, and these were similar.  Not in a perfect four-toe pattern like Alice's holes had been, but they certainly fit the shape and damage that a talon could inflict.

Since the holes were in the screen, there's no way Alice could have made them.  There's a plastic mesh on the inside of the cage, and a wooden frame separates the plastic from the screen by 3.5 inches.  Even Alice's talons couldn't do that.

Was there anything else that could have done it?  The patio is on the second floor of the house, so that rules out most things.  I don't think a raccoon or a cat could have climbed up there unless they could climb up a downspout.  Pretty unlikely, I would think.

Another woman who works with raptors had said that grasshoppers had chewed nice round holes in the screen on the outside of one of her cages.  But she had plastic screen and we have aluminum...I can't imagine that a grasshopper could do this kind of work even if it had been lifting weights and using steroids.  Plus the holes aren't all round...some are vertical tears.

So all I can think is that it was an owl visiting Alice.  The holes are in the corners where she likes to stand on the floor, so the location makes sense.  But the question then becomes was it a female trying to attack her (maybe Delilah?), or was it a male trying to woo her (maybe Rhett?)  We may never know unless it happens again.  Which it might.

Delilah and Victor seem to be a confirmed item now.  I've heard them hooting several times together in Victor's territory.  I think the vibrato hoots that Victor and Rusty have must be babe magnets....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I found blood on the floor of Alice's room two days ago.  That's nothing unusual given that she often drags her food around, but this was fresh drops of blood under her perch and going over to her water bowl.  The blood had to be Alice's.

She wasn't bleeding or looking anything other than normal, and I couldn't see any blood on her.  When I came back into the room to look again, I noticed blood not just on the floor, but spots on three walls and on the ceiling!  It had to be coming from her wing.

She's got several feathers growing in now, and the developing shafts are full of blood.  I presume she must have damaged one of the developing feathers and that's where the blood came from.  Thankfully it stopped bleeding on its own!

Yesterday when I took her to work I could see dried, smeared blood on her primary feathers on her bad wing, so that confirmed my suspicions that it was a damaged blood feather.  But no more blood, thank goodness!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Victor Hooks Up With Delilah?

Virginia had been gone a month.  She was found unable to fly on the east end of the territory she shared with Victor.  We picked her up off the sand bar in the Root River and volunteers transported her up to The Raptor Center in St. Paul, 2.5 hours north of here.

The Raptor Center had found maggots in a slice in her breast muscle.  She died a few weeks later, presumably from an infection.  They did a necropsy and confirmed this was a female owl, and also that it had a pocket of infection under the skin in its leg.

So a month later I woke up in the middle of the night to hear Victor hooting straight to the south of the house.  He hadn't been that far west for quite some time.  I couldn't figure out why he just hooted and hooted by himself.  Then after a while he was joined by Delilah, the female who's been living to the west of us since February.

They were both really excited, hooting rapidly and over top of each other.

Were they hooking up?  I had originally thought Delilah had her own mate, just that I rarely heard him.  But I had just recently figured out the male I heard with her was Rhett, the male that Scarlett Owl Hara had finally hooked up with half a mile west of us.  But I haven't heard Scarlett since last fall.  So I really have no idea what is going on in this tangled lover's web.

At any rate, I didn't sleep much that night.  I was listening anxiously for signs that Victor and Delilah were getting together.  Eventually they both moved off to the east of us, well into Victor's territory.  They kept hooting, which to me indicated Victor was accepting her there (he went first, and after all, it was he that went into Delilah's territory hooting.)

After a while Rhett started hooting to the south of the house, near where Victor and Delilah had hooted a few hours earlier.  Victor went back and hooted with him, but Delilah now stayed in Victor's territory while Victor handled things.  They hooted a while, but Rhett never came any closer to Victor's territory.

I haven't heard the owls since then, so I'm curious how things are going.  Are Victor and Delilah an item now, just one month after Virginia left?  What happened to Scarlett and why does Rhett appear single?  Was Rhett trying unsuccessfully to woo Delilah?  Hopefully some of these answers will reveal themselves with time.  Others we may never know.

Until the next exciting episode....