Barred Owls nest in a few spots at Gemini Springs. I never found the nest site of the first family I found at the park. Once the babies were branching, though, they were super-easy to find because they were very vocal. I followed that family for quite a while in the spring of 2012.
The following year I started seeing a pair of Barred Owls hanging out in a different part of the park. I saw them on most of my visits for several weeks in a row. These birds were reliably found perched around a clearing close to the camping area. I saw the pair as often as I saw one bird alone.
And then one day, I found the nest tree. A baby was begging and I followed the noise to see the precious baby just outside of the nest hole in a dead oak tree stump.
The tree was backlit during the morning so it was difficult to take a clear image. The nest hole is about a fourth of the way down on the following photo.
Because of the proximity of the nest to the trail, I didn’t visit this secluded part of Gemini Springs very often after I found the baby because I thought it might be too disturbing to the little family.
I revisited the nest tree the following spring and found a very sad sight.
The tree had snapped in half, and the nest part of the tree had fallen to the ground. This was at the end of March, right when Barred Owls are nesting. The bottom of the tree was overgrown with vines. I gingerly made my way to the base of the tree to see if there was any evidence of nesting for the year.
I found one broken egg but no feathers, and thankfully no injured birds. Its too bad the nest site was lost and the effort failed but I continue to see and hear Barred Owls all over Gemini Springs. Life goes on.
Thank you for your fascinating story on the Barred Owls at Gemini Springs. I also found two different families of Barred Owls when I birded at that park one morning in early June. It is too bad about the loss of their nesting tree.
Perhaps you could ask a local Audubon chapter to sponsor the purchase and installation of a Barred Owl box, with the park’s permission. Then the owl pair would not have to rely on a decaying tree for its nest.
You could help the park choose a great spot!
Blue Jay Point County Park (in Raleigh, NC) wanted to educate schoolgroups about the nesting preferences of owls. They installed a real nestbox for owls and a “demo” box on two trees. Guess which box the owl chose! Yep. The demo box, right along the trail and only seven feet up. And yes, they were successful!
Looking forward to more blog posts. Thanks!
Erla b of Wake Audubon Meetup in Raleigh, NC