In Beaux Arts Village, Eugenia Yen noticed some new neighbors in one of the large fir trees outside of her window: a family of great horned owls. “We have lived here for twelve years, and we have seen and heard barred owls before,” Eugenia explained, “but this was the first year I ever heard great horned owls. January was the first time I identified the sound. Soon I could look up and see that they were in the tree right outside my house,” she says incredulously.
Eugenia, who is a trained volunteer naturalist with the City of Bellevue’s parks program, has always enjoyed nature and was thrilled to discover the new arrivals. “I got the first photo of an owl in the nest in April and by mid-May, we could clearly see two baby owls,” she says. Eugenia began to observe them every day, recording their growth and activity and sharing their progress with local bird-watching groups online.
“I got a little obsessed with them,” she laughed. “I told a couple of neighbors and people got really excited.” People started calling them 'Eugenia’s owls'. “I didn’t want to get too attached to them,” she said, “but they were so darn cute!” As the owlets grew, Eugenia observed them exploring more branches of their tree, eating lots of food from their parent, and, eventually, leaving the nest. “One day I couldn’t see either of them. I was very worried because I did get very attached,” she explained. “A few days later I found one of the owlets on the ground near a parking lot. It’s common for owlets to spend time on the ground as they learn to fly, but it’s not common in nature that the ground is so publicly exposed.” Eugenia and a neighbor called the PAWS Wildlife Center for advice on how best to help. “Sometimes when you see wildlife on the ground, you are supposed to leave them be, but if you suspect they need help, always call a wildlife facility so they can guide you on the appropriate path,” she advises. In this case, PAWS advised relocating the owlet closer to where it was hatched. Luckily, Eugenia knew just where that was, and brought the owlet back to its home tree. “Twenty minutes later the owlet flew up onto my patio and stared at me for a while. After that, I knew it would be just fine,” she adds.
“The mature trees and biodiversity of the area are so important for these animals,” Eugenia shares. “These owls need big, old-growth trees for their habitats. We think a lot about how to make our yards beautiful, but think about what you can do to encourage more life in your yard and better coexist with the animals that live here, too,” she urges.
While great horned owls don’t necessarily return to the same nesting places every year, Eugenia feels very lucky to have had this experience. “Who knows if they will come back, but you can bet that I’ll be listening come January!”