Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

When I went outside early this morning, I heard the owls talking to each other. Well, not technically “talking”, more like “communicating” since their talk is in the form of hoots.

Great Horned Owls, the kind of owls that are in the woods behind my home, nest in January and February and their eggs are incubated for about a month. That means that owlets are generally born in late February and early March when it is pretty cold and definitely snowy in North Central Blogistan. The young start leaving the nest to sit on nearby branches when they are 6 to 7 weeks old (they are called “branchers”) and begin flying at around 9 to 10 weeks of age.

I have often wondered why owls nest at the coldest time of the year and why their babies are born when the opportunity for a quick easy meal is limited. Since Mother Earth generally has a plan, I started thinking about the reasons.

Are there fewer predators in the winter? Is there less competition for food (even as there is less food)? Is having your babies learning to fly when there are fewer other birds around easier?

Probably all of these, pieces of some of them and things that we don’t know.

What I do know is that the idea of branchers tickled me.

Your own babies start by hanging out on branches near the nest. Close enough to mom to feel safe but starting to test the boundaries. Once they begin flying, they are still around their parents but go further and further out. Until one day they are gone.

I think about this as I watch my daughter mature. She is at the age where, in a different day and age, she would have not only left the nest, cycled through her time on the branch but likely flown off to start her own nest. In modern society, we keep our owlets closer for longer but my guess is that the natural urge to be independent leads to some of the friction between parents and their children. And in the tweener years the friction is even worse because “want to stay on the branch with mom” comes up against “need to test my wings”.

What I need to remember above all as she starts getting more independent is to let her know that I continue to care … about her and what she is interested in and what is important to her.

Because we all need someone who gives a hoot.