A friend said, "There's a raptor nest visible from the road. It would be good to know what kind it is."
Subtext is the province is widening the road because they want to put a stupid TEN-lane bridge onto our island and need somewhere for TEN lanes of traffic to hang out before the clog-up at the four-lane bridge at the other side of the island.
The nest-thing was fine with me. Get away from a keyboard and tromp around in the woods for a while.
The woods are far from pristine. The understory is mostly a tangle of invasive blackberry that will happily kill you with a million punctures.
We could see the nest from a distance, and scrabbled a circuitous path to the base of the tree, a tall but not impressively old cottonwood.
We craned our necks, raised our binos. 50 feet up. No heads, adult or baby. The nest seemed empty. It was too small, too enclosed for an eagle, It was too large for a Cooper's Hawk. Red-tail was the probable owner.
"Or a Great-horned," I said. They use old nests. "But they should be fledged by now."
There was fresh white-wash (poop) on the ferns and blackberries circling the tree, We started searching for pellets. There were hemlock branches extending into the upchuck radius that could have deflected the pellets away from the trunk. I skirted wider, and found, sadly, this.
I had a hard time mentally assembling it. The head is upper right. It's a baby Great-horned Owl, an owlet, starting to fledge. Note the blue shafts of the pin feathers, lower right.
It was days dead. I shifted it a bit so that the talons were visible.
We have no idea how this one died. Siblicide is rare in Great-horneds, I have since read. We had mixed emotions, contentment in figuring out the ownership of the nest, and sadness over a dead owlet.
We walked back to the car, a different route. We couldn't possibly retrace our steps through the blood-letting blackberries. We came across a log decorated with slime mold doo-dads. Life from death, death from life, a smelly, prickly circle, ugly and beautiful.