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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

Owl-Cam Viewers Bereft as Nest Empties

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Keith Goetzman, environment, wilderness and wildlife, birdwatching, owls, Molly the owl, webcam, Sportsman’s Paradise Online,

Owlets watch for Molly

It’s like a long-running, beloved TV drama is coming to an end as the owlets raised by webcam star Molly the barn owl grow up and leave the nest—and hardcore viewers are having a hard time dealing with the transition.

Molly, her partner McGee, and their brood of four owlets have become a webcam sensation, having attracted 14 million views since the cam went on the air in February. But last night, the youngest owlet, a diminutive late bloomer dubbed Wesley but thought to be a female, finally got up the gumption to stretch her wings and take a short flight out of their nest box to a nearby palm tree. It was an emotional moment for many owl watchers, both because many were worried she was unhealthy and because they saw the darkness at the end of the tunnel: The owls, having fledged, will soon stop returning to their home nest—and anyway, webcam proprietor Carlos has vowed to cease broadcasts on June 14 to take a much-needed vacation.

Here’s what posters are saying as empty-nest syndrome begins to set in:

I have never posted before but have been watching since they were just eggs. It has been a privilege and honor to have been able to watch these beautiful majestic creatures all these weeks. It will stay with me forever.  I will never be able to look at birds in the same way.

I’m never letting my children move out! Then again, the owlets don’t talk back to me.

So many emotions were felt last night as the thought of the empty owl box. It is hard to imagine our days ahead without checking in over and over to see what these little owls are up to.

Lucky for us we have another day to enjoy watching her mature and play and gobble. I find my smile muscles are getting stretched to capacity when I sit and watch owlets.

Morning all, I’ve been lurking a bit this morning. I was literally sick as I waited for this site to come up. The anticipation of whether I’d see Wesley or an empty box was almost too much! I have enjoyed talking and listening to each of you. I’m quite active on Facebook so I’ll look for you all there when this is over.

You see, the community that has sprung up around Molly has grown pretty tight. Folks have been swapping videos of owlets horking up food-waste pellets, trading statistics on how many “treats” (prey animals) were delivered each day, and comforting each other as live bunnies were killed and eaten onscreen. In addition to the camera chat room, there’s a blog and a children’s e-book and even a Molly song.

What will these obssessive wildlife voyeurs do when the owl cam blinks out?

Well, they could always go watch the octocam.

Sources: Sportsman’s Paradise Online, Oregon LiveMolly’s Box 

Image from Molly’s Box.