Great horned owls have Eagle County workers talking | VailDaily.com

Great horned owls have Eagle County workers talking

Special to the Daily

EAGLE — There has been plenty of action around the Eagle County Building this spring with a commissioner resignation, a vacancy committee search for his replacement, the Wolcott development land use hearings and public meetings concerning the Castle Peak Senior Care project.

But what has Eagle County staff really talking is their newest neighbors — a pair of great horned owls and their three chicks. The owl family took up residence in the large pine tree out front of the historic Eagle County Courthouse in downtown Eagle.

Sharee Wettstein, administrative manager for Eagle County, had one of the best seats in the house to observe the bird family during the past month.

"They were amazing. It is so rare to get this kind of a bird's eye view," she said.

County staffers at the commissioners/administration office first noticed the owls about a month ago and initially kept quiet about the nest to make sure the chicks were not disturbed. Wettstein and some other volunteers regularly cleaned up the area below the nest in an effort to keep the owls from announcing their presence. But great big owls in a busy office locale don't exactly blend in with the scenery and eventually more and more people became aware of the nest.

"I would have been pretty hard to keep them secret for long. They are massive," Wettstein said.

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Commissioner Jon Stavney regularly photographed the owls during the past month.

"I went to windows all over both buildings to try to find the best view. Actually the best view was the one right out our (the commissioners' offices) window," he said.

Wettstein had a pair of binoculars at the office so people could take a closer look at the birds. She even dropped by her office during the evening hours so she could watch the owls when they were more active. Wettstein was particularly fascinated to watch last Friday when the mother owl flew over to the roof of the old county courthouse and coaxed the chicks to fly to her. They made the journey and that was the end of their nesting time. The birds are still likely in the general area, but they aren't hanging out at their county nest any longer.