Monterey County's most famous barn owls are back in the limelight.
Teco and Lotte, as the two owls are affectionately known, have returned to the owl box at Haute Enchilada restaurant in Moss Landing. They first made a home there in December 2016 after owner Kim Solano—who named them (tecolote is Spanish for owl)—installed it on the property in hopes owls would it a home, and in turn carry out a sustainable form of rodent control.
The plan worked, and in the process, the owls became stars: Solano had a camera installed in the box linked to a live YouTube channel, and a feed streamed onto a screen in her restaurant.
Diners delighted when eight owlets hatched in the following months, and the camera even caught one owlet getting cannibalized by its brothers and sisters.
"It's truly survival of the fittest," Solano says.
Teco and Lotte returned to the nest recently, but it was later in the year than when they arrived in 2016, which had Solano worried.
"I’m so excited about it," Solano says. "They’re here, they’re back, and they’re home."
Solano says she's been in an "owl frenzy" all week, as two new owlets—the first of this year's brood—hatched and were observed on the camera March 19.
She has named them Chiquita and Banana.
Haute Enchilada will be hosting a fundraiser dinner April 26 (5:30-8pm; $60) to celebrate Teco and Lotte's return, with proceeds going to purchase owl boxes that will be donated to local schools.
Last year, Solano donated a box to Boronda Meadows Elementary in Salinas, and she hopes they can become an educational tool at more schools and help young students "respect their fellow life on the planet."