Jill and Garys story

Jill and Garys Story

We have been watching these Barn Owls in our back field for three and a half years now. First they were in a palm tree directly behind our house. They had two owlets fledge. Later, neighbors cut down the tree. Next, they moved to the palm tree to the south of our yard. That summer we got a really windy day and 5 babies fell out and died before we found them. Two survived and fledged. That is when we put up an owl box on a pole. I think they did not use it as they were already established in the tree. This last summer 2010, four babies fell and died. We knew there was one remaining baby in the nest because we could hear it in the tree, so every single night we went outside to watch the parents bring it food. One night, we saw Willow fly straight to the ground at dusk. We walked out into the field and there was the baby on the ground. At the time, we did not know that owls can climb back up into the tree. We also knew there was a neighborhood cat and coyotes that prowl the field, so Gary ran and got gloves and picked it up. We put him in our yard trying to figure out what to do! He was so ready to fly but was not able to gain the height needed. Meanwhile, Bear Grylls and Willow were watching from the neighbor’s roof next door. We decided to let them help the baby (at least he wasn't in the field with the coyotes). The next morning we woke up to find him at our back door! There was a half of a gopher in the yard, so we knew the parents fed him that night. We knew we couldn't just leave him there, so we put him in our garden shed and removed the back window. He slept on the cot in there all day! We positioned a camera in the window and watched the parents bring him food that night. The next night he climbed out the window and was miraculously in his own tree the next morning! He stayed in the nest about 3 days and then started taking practice flights from palm tree to palm tree. He would often fly too low and have to climb up the tree trunk to get high enough to do it again. We stood watching quietly in our yard, inwardly cheering him on as he got better and better! We almost cried when he mastered flying. He continued to beg loudly for food for another month and then he was gone! Now I cried.

Bear Grylls and Willow continued to live in that tree until about 2 months ago, when huge chunks of palm fronds fell out of the tree, exposing the nice perch they used for their nest. Now that it was uninhabitable, they moved to the palm tree on the north side of our house. That is when we built the owl box from the Hungry Owl Project's plans because it was apparent they weren't going to use the one we had on a pole (plus we wanted to double our chances!) Now while Bear Grylls would hang out in the palm tree, he could not miss the new box.... it was right in front of him. We could hear them mating in the tree so I was sure they had already chosen their new site and wouldn't move. But we got some heavy rains that soaked their palm tree and I think that beautiful new box nestled in the pine tree was looking pretty warm and cozy because one morning four days after Christmas we woke up to find the two of them snugly sleeping inside . One week later, they had their first egg!

Although extremely grateful that we had barn owls living on both sides of our house, I prayed for owls to come live in our box! So I give God the glory for these owls! They are His creatures anyways!

Psalm 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Monday, April 25, 2011

My letter to Elf

Dear Elf, When you hatched you were the last of eight eggs and weren't expected to make it. I woke up every morning and hurried to the computer to see if you were still here. I remember you boldly grabbing the first treat of the night and running with it underneath Noelle! When I watched you try to drag a rabbit twice your size I knew you meant business and that you were going to make it! When we rescued you from our backyard and got to be upclose to you meant so much to me. You were beautiful! You weren't even that afraid of us. I think you knew that you could trust us! You were brave when Gary climbed 16 feet up the ladder with you to put you back into the box. Last night when Bear knocked you out of the tree we knew he meant well; he just knew it was time for you to learn to fly and be on your own soon. You were a trooper though! We watched you through the window pretend as though you wanted to be on the fence all along! To see you take your first flight took my breath away. I was so proud. I know now that I may only have a few more days with you. You will soon learn to soar silently through the night. You will find a mate and have owlets of your own. I wonder if you know how many hearts you touched? Some would say you are just an owl. I say you are my gift from God. Please be safe and come visit often. Maybe someday one of your owlets will stay in our bathroom! Thank you for the wonderful memories. You will be in my heart forever. I love you little Elf! Jill



  1. Jill, I am moved to tears. Your heartfelt love is so beautiful to see. I am glad to be part of your wonderful experience. You and Gary and be proud of who you are and what you are to all of us including the owls. You have a wonderful way with the animals and us. Thank you and Gary for being you and for including me in your wonderful family. Blessings, JanKW (I try to chat, but it is difficult now, it's not b/c I don't want to be there.)

  2. I lurk most of the time! I check every evening t see how the owls are, and every morning to get the latest news.
    Thanks so much for all you do, EVERY day!

  3. Dearest Elf, I hope you know and feel the love from all your" minions" especially the head "minions" Gary and Jill. We are and always will be "The Wind Beneath Your Wings"

  4. Dear Jill & Gary
    I loved your touching & moving letter to Our Little Elf... I am now having Happy Tears!! I cheered Elf on too!! I will continue to share in watching this wonderful site of Bear & Willow with the owlets.. Thank you both so much for this opportunity to enjoy these beautiful Barn Owls... They have all my heart and love.. One of your Chatters (ybhrmark) Celeste Mark

  5. awww, what a sweet letter to Elf! He is a sweet little guy! He had to deal with all those older siblings - goodness!


  6. Jill, I think you expressed in your letter what was in the mind and hearts of everyone that Elf touched during the last 63 days. I always said he was going to be a Mighty Owl, and know I was right. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your box family. I have enjoyed so much getting to know all of you, especially Jill & Gary. Thank you for what you have done for Bear Gryllis and Willow, Love, Teros (Rose)

  7. Elf has captured all of our hearts. He is a fighter for life. I truly love this little guy. Thank you for Gary and Jill for sharing all of these owlets with us.
    With love, SixToes

  8. Jill and Gary too! Your letter to Elf moved me to tears. I have goosebumps thinking about it. Thank you for sharing this brave lil guy with us. He's forever in our hearts too and yes, he is a gift to us from God. We'll miss him as he begins his new life. God speed little one!

  9. I love you all Bear and Willow family! "Little" Elf did steal my heart, what a cutie and a trooper with all of his siblings! Your letter was perfect. Yes, it did make me cry. I wish the whole family health and happiness.Thank you Gary and Jill for your love, sharing and kindness. Hugs, Sarah (mrshb)