I returned home last Thursday after being in the Park all morning. Cindy was waiting at the door pointing below the cabin. A pygmy owl was perched on a female grosbeak. He had killed it some two hours earlier and had been feeding on it ever since.
My friends Chase and his wife and her friend plus McNeil and two clients of his soon came by. Together we watched and photographed the little owl until about noon when he flew up into the trees.
Cindy and I watched all afternoon as the pygmy would return every now and then to feed on the bird carcass. At 4PM, just as it was getting dark, the owl drug the bird out into the open then flew to the top of our rail fence with its kill. It rested for a time then fluttered across the highway with the grosbeak dangling from his claws.
Four days have gone by since the pygmy owls visit to our cabin. Things returned to normal the very next morning with the whole flock of 40 plus grosbeaks returning to feed. A couple of old friends had come by to visit when something caught my eye out the window. Feathers were floating in the air. It took me a bit but I soon found the source. Our pygmy was back. This time he was subduing a male pine grosbeak.
The little owl fed on its kill only a few minutes when a magpie appeared. The pygmy flew away but the magpie was too shy to retrieve the dead bird, so the carcass lay unattended. Two hours went by when I noticed the owl was back. This time he plucked for fifteen minutes before feeding. Every few seconds the owl would stop to look around. Probably for the magpie.
Suddenly he was gone. The magpie was perched just above. Once again it left without the dead bird.
At dusk, I looked out to see the little owl had returned. Once again it plucked and fed feverously. At 4:45 the owl tried to carry the bird away but couldn’t lift it into the air. The pygmy perched for a time nearby reluctant to abandon its catch but finally flew away.
At dawn the next morning I looked out to see the dead grosbeak was still there. At 7:45 the pygmy owl suddenly appeared and began to feed. A few minutes and the magpie flew in chasing off the little owl. This time the magpie dropped to the carcass and carried it away.
A half hour later I looked out to see 45 grosbeaks perched on the ground, the feathers of their fallen comrade still floating around them on the snow.