While Tammy and I were in Everglades National Park, we heard from another visitor (who, in turn, had heard from a local birding club doing a Christmas Bird Count) of where we could see a Great Horned Owl sitting on a nest. I love seeing owls, so I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to see one on a nest. Tammy and I found the nest, but were later told by a park ranger not to advertise the location because the nest might get endangered.
At first I was thinking that the danger was simply too much human interest in the nest and the stress to the birds that would accompany the human traffic. But the park ranger explained that an owl's nest was a target for egg collectors. Egg collecting?
Okay. Obviously there was something here that I was (and still am) a bit naive about. A few Google searches later, however, and I have learned a new word: oology. The collection of wild bird eggs is an old hobby that evolved into something much more formal and science based. The collection of eggs, however, has some serious conflicts of interest. An egg taken for something as positive sounding as scientific study is an egg that will not hatch into a new generation, which puts even more pressure on a species that might need all the help it can get. Here is an article written for the October 2005 edition of Birder's World magazine that provides very good background on this subject. And here is a letter to the editor of a magazine called Birds and All Nature, published in May 1899 (yes...1899!) that provides a decidedly negative opinion of the collection of eggs. Ironically, the letter writer also states that collecting and mounting specimens of birds is not all that bad.
So, here is that Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest. I took this photo from an undisclosed located within Everglades National Park. Hopefully one more generation of owl will fledge from this nest.