Nature's Balancing Act

Just as it was looking like Ward and June's incredible string of nesting successes might go on forever, nature dealt a harsh reminder that they are only one part of a vast network of interdependent wild creatures. This reminder came when a fisher (Martes Pennanti, which is a large and agile member of the weasel family), predated the nest. Ward and June were both out hunting when the end came swiftly for this season's owlets, and were not aware of it until June returned to find an empty nest. She responded to her loss with wails and squeals which were repeated in two subsequent visits to the nest during the night. By dawn, she had moved deeper into the forest where she and Ward  could be heard exchanging classic hoots, as if to remind everyone that this was only a temporary setback. Their ancestors have shared  the forest with the fisher for thousands of generations which must have seen many such setbacks, but have always recovered to produce new generations of owlets. While modern technology has allowed us to see this family of owls as humans have never seen owls before, we must remember that their story is only one of the millions of untold stories that have made them and the other wild creatures of the forest what they are today. I plan to continue reporting on their activities as they start this new phase in their fascinating but unpredictable lives. 

While the fisher's size and ability to climb effortlessly through the treetops would appear to give it an overwhelming advantage, it was for a time driven to near extinction by loss of habitat and relentless trapping by those seeking its luxuriant fur coat.   It is currently found only in the northern part of the U.S. and in Canada. If you wish to learn more about the fisher, you can find a wealth of information by going to www.google.com and doing a search for Martes Pennanti.   Those who wish to see and hear more about the fisher attack on the OwlCam nest may do so by clicking the empty nest box in this picture. 

June's mourning period did not last for long. She was back the next day with this large shrew dangling from her beak as she hooted for Ward until he responded with the variation of his monkey call normally reserved for the mating season. It is supposed to be the male that entices the female with prey during their mating ritual, but in this case June appeared to be more eager to start a new family than Ward. It is late in the season for that, but in Life Histories of North American Birds of Prey, Bent reports that barred owls have produced as many as three replacement clutches when eggs are destroyed. Each replacement took three to four weeks, so that they would have been 9 to 12 weeks behind schedule. This would result in owlets leaving the nest in mid-August, and leave them little time to prepare for a fall departure from the territory. Only time will tell, but both Ward and June could be heard in what sounded like a mating ritual again on the 19th. I will provide updates when there are significant activities to report.

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