I've been spending a few evenings searching a patch of timber in Sunlight Basin. A month ago I found sign a great gray owl was in the area but all the nests were empty. I returned for another look last week and found more sign (pellets, white-wash and a feather) but once again couldn't locate the owls.
So here I am again, giving it one more try. I went to a large doug fir where I had found the most white-wash and pellets. Last time I looked to the west, today I'll try the east. Right away I discovered a large pellet. Across a narrow meadow I found white-wash and a feather under a huge doug fir. Maybe I'm getting somewhere! I zig-zagged back and forth looking for more perches and nest sites. Nothing. I began coming across fresh digs made by a bear. Then fresh bear scat. Then ants hills with their tops knocked off and ants still swarming. I was right on top of this bear! I moved down slope and circled back to my car. No more owl sign. Maybe there isn't a nest. It could just be a lone owl.
It was getting dark and rainy on my drive back home. Suddenly a horned owl appeared upslope of the highway sitting a top a skinny snag. It was so wet, it's ears drooped. A quarter mile farther down the road, another horned owl sat back in the trees.
The next morning, I was back at the second horned owls perch. The way I figured it, this owl was probably sitting near the chicks while the other was out hunting. The area was extremely boggy with small ponds and streams everywhere. I checked the snags and witches brooms. Nothing. In fact, there was no sign owls were ever here.
I made my way back to the car and drove down to where the other owl was perched. Maybe I had it backwards. In the open area above where it was sitting I found pellets under a likely perch. Then soon found another, unfortunately at that moment the rains came and I slipped and slided my way back down to the car. I'll come back when the wet weather ends.
My gret horned nest over near Belfry is maturing quickly. All three chicks are doing fine and actually may have fledged by now.