I first discovered the three Great Horned Owl nestlings while taking a shortcut through the middle of the island. Before I used 2 cans of WD-40 to get the chain functioning on a rusty old Schwinn, I walked everywhere. I walked around the perimeter of the island. Around the water tower. Through the grassy plateau atop the island filled with Black-tailed Deer. The old roads (made before the island was a protected refuge) were embossed with the soles of my irrigation boots. I saw many species of birds in one tiny stand of trees at the heart of the island's plateau. A handful of different songbirds and probably a dozen Bald Eagles. And then one evening, this young lady.
And her gentleman caller.
It never stops being mind-blowing to see owls. During my undergrad at CSU, when I first took ornithology (which spurred my love...obsession...with birds) I was birding a local river and spotted a Great Horned Owl nestling hopping around in branches above me. I remember scanning the trees and finding both the nestling's parents looking directly at me. The thing about looking for owls is that they always find you way before you find them.
The three nestlings on Protection Island grew so accustomed to me watching them that they often fell asleep looking in another direction. But the male and female parents always kept a close eye on me. See the video below for the indifference of one of the nestlings.
In the few months that I lived on the island, I watched the downy little chicks go from puff balls to sleek, vole killing machines. I even saw one of them kill a large Glaucous-winged Gull and fly away over the trees with it. Sigh. They grow up so fast.