Sunday marked a special day for us here at Dharma's Garden! Above the cottonwood trees, near the apple orchard, "ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo.' Then across the street, another, lower hooting sound. Back and forth these Great Horned Owl pair called, and we realized the female had taken to the nest.
Back in December of 2018, Farmer Tim and Mason built an owl house with Scott Rashid, a local predatory bird export with the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute. The tree was selected, a wire cone was shaped and placed in the crook of the trunk, and it was filled with branches, sticks and leaves. Then, we waited, and hoped, until just last week our dream of owls nesting here came true!
Great Horned Owls have the most diverse diet of any North American raptor. They prey on birds and mammals ranging from mice to skunks to other predatory birds, and use their strong talon grip to sever the spines of their prey. Usually nocturnal, they hunt between dusk and midnight, and again from 430 to dawn.
As one of North America's most common owl, these remarkably adaptable birds nest in all types of habitat between the Arctic and the tropics. Interestingly, owls do not build their own nest, but rather look for abandoned sites from other birds, like crows and hawks, and sometimes even squirrel. As time goes on, and the nests deteriorate, the owls move on to find new nesting sites rather than spruce up the old one.
Great Horned Owls are territorial birds, and once they settle into an area, they defend it with hooting, hissing and wing clapping. Most owls mate for life, and begin to brood in late winter, making them the earliest nesting raptors in North America. Incubation lasts 30-37 days, and then owlets nest for another 40 days or so. As owlets hatch and grow, the abundance of spring new born life supports their development and also determines the number of owlets that survive.
We are overjoyed with these new wild beings making this place home, and feel this speaks to the wonder and health of this land. In tending to both the cultivated and making space for the wild, we honour the balance of the two in one. Dharma's Garden continues to be a sanctuary for life, surrounded by city and development, where not only the neighborhood comes together but the wild also feel at home.
As the season continues we will update you with the goings and comings of our new farm neighbours. Stay tuned!