Locals worry about status of Grater Park owls’ nest

By on February 13, 2019

Local residents and bird enthusiasts from afar were all smiles when the Jan. 30 edition of The Ephrata Review published Grater Park adult owl photos and commentary by Kirk Neidermyer and Tim Eisenberger.

It seems Mother Nature, however, had other plans in mind for the 2019 nesting season. An accompanying photo, taken on Saturday, Feb. 9 by Lancaster resident Tony Harnish, shows a cracked egg shell on the edge of the Grater Park nest cavity consistent in size, shape, and color with eggs produced by Great Horned Owls.

Photo by Tony Harnish

Local nature photographer Tony Harnish recently captured this image of an eggshell along the edge of the familiar owl’s nest in Grater Park

With the female owl no longer sitting on the nest following the frigid Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 cold snap, squirrels reclaimed the nest and started house cleaning. The partial owl egg shell is likely an indicator the female owl was beginning her 31- to 36-day egg incubation period.

Thus, one question remains for local owl watchers — will this pair of Great Horned Owls make a second attempt?

According to PA Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Specialist, Derek Stoner, the possibility exists.

“The Grater Park pair still has time to make another nesting attempt this season in order to have the young fledgling(s) by early May. Active May nest sightings typically correspond to a later-than-normal attempt or re-nesting,” Stoner said.

So, optimists will hope for the best. Perhaps, fluffy owlets will once again grace Grater Park, half a month later than normal.

Mike Shull is a freelance photographer/writer for Lancaster County Weeklies.

Photographer Dawn Ekdahl captured this rare image of the local Grater Park owl family (mom and the two owlets) together last June. Back in mid-April last year, she said the owlets fledged from the nest several days apart, but soon rejoined again in the tops of the trees, under the watchful eye of their father. Clumsily hopping from branch to branch, the two were never far apart during that first month after fledging. Ekdahl said as they gained their independence and flight skills in the next few months, they still maintained close proximity, calling to each other frequently and the mother was often observing from nearby. She said the entire family disappeared from the area in mid-summer and only the parents returned back again in early fall. Checking the area regularly, Ekdahl said she visited last Wednesday and found the dad within minutes, in what she says was one of his typical spots when mom is on the nest. Unfortunately mama owl is not currently spending time in any of her obvious and favorite roosts.

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