Eagle owls built a nest in the Middle of Helsinki.
I have observed eagle owls' life already for years in the center of Helsinki but the season 2010-2011 was the most interesting because an eagle owl couple decided to nest on the roof of the Forum's shopping center in the middle of Helsinki.
Light clouds on the sky were the best ones to observe eagle owls because then an eagle owl was well visible towards the background, it did not matter if the bird was flying or stayed on the roof.
I remember one night when the sky was incredible starry. Then the sky was dark and it was difficult to identify the eagle own. He hooted high on the top of the hotel Scandic's advertising tower. Nothing else was possible to see from the eagle owl but his greatly sparkling throat. It sparkled far away, the only part of the whole bird.
Ones I followed the predation of the eagle owl for about three hours. First he wandered hooting on the roofs in the center and then he flew via the flagpole of Sanomatalo to the coast of the bay close by. He hunted wild rabbits but that time he had very bad luck: The wild rabbits were occasionally only two meters away but the eagle owl did not get to catch them. Then, one of the rabbits got safe under the parked car. There the rabbit stayed shaking for long time. Disappointed eagle owl flew to hoot on the roof corner of the Finlandia house and from there he continued hooting on the top of the tower of the Töölö's high church. This spot is really the best place to hoot because from there the echo board is the best possible and the hooting of the eagle owl echos really fantastically.
I observed the eagle owls daily the whole winter in the center district. I did not accept to find only one eagle owl but I wanted to find both and often I did though. I saw them copulating three times in December on the roofs in the center and once in January. The couple copulated on the roofs of three different city blocks.
The last time I saw the copulating was the January 11th 2011, on the roof of the Forum shopping center and this was also the last day, when I saw two eagle owls. After that I did not find two eagle owls even I looked for them every single day. Therefore, I made a conclusion that the female one had probably left for hatching, although the time was far too early for their natural nesting.
I up-dated my observations as events took place. In the beginning of February I estimated that the "calculated time" would be at about 14.2.2011, at the time of the Valentine's day. Then, we would get new friends. The hatching time for eagle owls is about 35 days, therefore the counting gave this point of the time.
Then, it lasted long before I found the female again, at the end of February. First I saw only her back and she murmured so strangely on the plane of the roof that I presumed her to have chicks underneath. I had found the nest. Because there was a lot of snow last winter, it was impossible to see from any spot to the high roof plane of the Forum shopping center. The female stayed every day at the same spot in upright position, not in hatching one. Therefore, my suspicions began to strengthen that she already really had chicks even though the date was way too early. Normally the eagle owls start their hatching not until around the March 10th. Perhaps the timetable does not touch the city eagle owls. Anyhow, it lasted still one more week before I finally saw an evidence, a chick. This was not a surprise for me anymore but accepted event, based on my former observations. This couple had started nesting for two months earlier than the eagle owls normally do.
I foresaw the location of the possible nest already before the hatching because the female enjoyed at that spot, as if she had accepted the place suggested by the male. The male eagle owl had often strange, quick visits exactly on that plate of the roof. He went there and came out, he stayed about a minute, always with similar repeats.
The forecasting about our new friends, eagle owl chicks, matched finally pretty close.
During the last days of March the three eagle owls chicks are incredible big and they are stretching their wings in the nest. The chicks started to move between the plates of the building. Every one of them dropped at least ones on the street during the spring and they were taken back on the roof. One of the chick, which was a female one, was found dead on the street in the beginning of June, after crashing toward something. The other two were males.
I saw a chick for sure the last time at the end of July in the spot, which was less than 200 meters from the nest.
At the end of October, an adult male was found dead in Kaisaniemi, about 700 meters from the nest. In the ringing office I was told that the male one was ringed in 2006. I had reasons to suspect that this was exactly the male of the Forum's eagle owl and this means then that the hooting will probably not to be heard any more in the city center. The hooting has ended.
The text has been translated by Markku Hongisto