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Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The owl box has been down for about 4 months.  I finally decided how I wanted to mount the camera.  The new mount is in a 4" PVC tube attached to the top of the box.  That puts it  farther away from the action and allows the entire box, including the opening to be within the field of view.  I re-installed the box on the oak tree on Sunday, connected the camera, and started recording at night.  About 1:30 this morning, less than 48 hours after returning the box, one of the owls visited for about 2 minutes, checked out the new "digs", seemed to be comfortable and left.  Remember that last year, January was as early as any nesting behavior began.  I will post shorts between now and then.  If you "subscribe" you will automatically receive a notice when the live feed returns--otherwise, check back here regularly for updates.

Here is this mornings visit (watch for the talons to appear in the opening--not sure if this is Momma or dad):

Monday, August 1, 2011

Update August 1, 2011

Since the young fledged, there is no evidence that Momma has been back to the nest box. This is typical of past years and does not indicate that she has left for good.

I took the box down a couple of days ago for modification. I plan to re-install the box shortly with the camera optimized to show the entire base of the nest box and the entry hole. This should provide better viewing for next year.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

And even more cruel

The last post was on Saturday. On Tuesday, the same neighbor brought over another owlet he found dead in his yard. In this case, the young owl was found lying face down and showed no sign of trauma. Yesterday I delivered it to the Raptor Trust and one of their employees conducted a necropsy--result was that there was no food in the young birds stomach. She could find no reason other than not being fed and confirmed that there was apparently no physical injury or other reason for death. Apparently the family became so scattered after they left the box that the parents were unable to care for them all.

After we found the dead bird on Tuesday, I scoured the trees around my yard and found an adult roosting with two of the owlets. These owlets appeared to be in good shape and I left them all there together without any disturbance. Bottom line is that 2 are gone, 2 are fine and one is unaccounted for. Hopefully at least the two will continue to receive enough nourishment and continue to thrive to adulthood.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sometimes Nature is Cruel

I received a message from a neighbor this afternoon with bad news about one of the owlets. He had found the remains (both wings and scattered feathers) of a young screech owl in his yard. He also found 3 of the owlets huddled together about 4 feet off the ground in a young sapling nearby. I went over and we checked it out. There was no evidence to suggest what killed and consumed the young owl. They have been spending a lot of time on or close to the ground so it could have been any number of things including a larger bird (Great Horned Owl?), fox, or even a feral cat. We could not locate #5. At least 3 are still doing well and staying together so here is a photo of their progress:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Family Progress

I ran into the owl family this morning while I was walking my dog. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me at the time because there was one owlet (still looking pretty young) on the ground, at least two more were nearby a few feet off the ground in a shrub, and at least one adult was clicking its beak, warning me to stay away. By the time I took my dog back to the house and retrieved the camera, I could only find one owlet high in a tree but all of the other birds in the yard were still screaming a warning to all who would listen.

Habitat for owls is so much more than just a box on a tree. The family has moved into a "wilder" part of the yard where there is substantial cover to hide in during the day. There is also ample food and a nearby source of (at least seasonal) water. Their presence may impact "The Catbird's Meow" but it is habitat for all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Last Owlet Fledged; Blog NOT ending

The last owlet left the nest box on Tuesday evening, May 24 about 8:20 p.m. It was still light outside but it rapidly blended into my Certified Backyard Habitat (National Wildlife Federation) and I was not able to find it. I know it was there because both adults "attacked" me as soon as I stepped outside the door to get a better look at where it might have gone. Not wanted to disturb them, and knowing that they had much work to do to gather all 5 of their offspring together for a night of feeding, I retreated indoors. Yesterday (Wednesday), I located 2 of the owlets in a nearby tree row where they were well camouflaged as tree branches.

I will continue to follow the owl family out side while they are still in the neighborhood and update the blog with any "happening". I will also be reviewing the many hours of recorded videos as I have time and will post here any clips I assemble If you would like to be notified of them, all you need to do is indicate that you would like to "follow" the blog which you can do with any e-mail account-- OR

I will begin to use my other dormant blog, The Catbird's Meow. This blog was intended to be a place to put information and opinion on my favorite topic--Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, particularly the use of Native Plants. If you decide to follow that blog, I will also include links back to NJ Screech Owl when appropriate--and of course next spring, look for this to all happen again, with bigger and better coverage.

Thanks for following--and love your backyard wildlife as much I as love Momma Screech and her family!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Lonely Owlet . . .

. . .is left in the box. Three more left over night with the next to the last leaving at about 5:15. I am starting to get empty nest syndrome. I am sure that Momma and Papa have plenty to keep them busy with 4 out in the world needing food and defense. Here photos of 2 of them:

Monday, May 23, 2011

One Down, Four to Go

On Sunday morning, there was a little bit of chaos in the nest box. At the beginning, two owlets were looking out; when it was over, the camera was completely altered and only four owlets remained. Apparently during that feeding episode at about 5:00 a.m., one of the owlets left, or was pushed out of the nest box. I readjusted the camera. After searching high and low, I can not find either the owlet or either of the adults. However, I am not worried. It was time to leave. The box is very full and during Sunday evening, both Momma and Papa were defending the area around one of our maple trees. This means that something was there to defend. I left them alone. Watch tonight (Monday) and see if any of the other owlets follow. Here is a video of the morning of 5/22 (Sunday morning):

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Baby looks out

The owlets are spending a lot of time looking out and thinking about the future. Here is just one shot from about 7:00 tonight:

Wings and a protective father

Before you can fly you have to have wings and the young owls are developing theirs fast. If you have been watching the live feed, you have certainly noticed the new feathers the young owls have developed in the last week or so. they are spending lots of time exercising them in the limited space in the box. When I have time, I will go back and review many hours of recorded video and figure out when the first true feathers actually started to develop. In the mean time, here are a couple of images of the owlet's wings taken from last night:

Before I installed the camera this year, our only clue that young owls were around was that the male screech owl would aggressively defend the area around the nest box at night. He would fly within a couple of feet of our heads, making incredible screeching sounds with lots of beak clicking. Thursday night was the first night this year that he displayed that behavior--even while all of the owlets were still in the box. Now it is only a matter of time until one chooses, or is pushed, out of the box and into its new life beyond. Papa (and Momma, of course) will be there to defend and feed while they learn to use their new wing feathers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photos from outside

Both Momma and the owlets are spending a lot of time looking out of the box these days. Here are a couple of photos taken this afternoon. First is Momma:

Then after she flew out one of the larger owlets stuck its head out:

Only to be replaced (I believe by one of the smaller, more shy ones:

Momma Makes the News

Momma Screech and the screech owl cam made the NJ Star Ledger this morning. Here is a link to the on-line version of the article about nature and zoo cams:

Unfortunately, the on-line version did not include the beautiful photograph of Momma peeking out of the nest box that was taken by their staff photographer, Saed Hindash. I will try to find a copy of the photo or take the liberty of scanning it later in the day.

It's a pretty good article. I would just stress and expand on the quote he took from the interview with me that says "It's something people can't normally see." Those of you who have been following this blog, and the cam, over the last couple of weeks while the young were growing up, know that there is no way to ever experience the joy of watching a wild animal in the way the nature cam allows. A wild screech owl or eagle will abandon its young if humans intrude on the young too many times. It has always been, and will always be, my goal to disturb wildlife as little as absolutely possible to share it with the public.

That said, my wife commented a couple of times that "do you mean all of this has been going on outside our window for 4 years!" It is true. In past years, we did not know when the eggs were laid, how many eggs she laid, how many times a night they were fed (some nights more than 100 times), or how many owlets there were until they fledged (and then only a minimum number since Momma is very good at hiding them).

For those joining this blog and the camera as a result of the article welcome. Unfortunately, the owlets will be fledging soon but watch closely until they do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tonight may be the night

Here are a couple of videos from last night. In the first, the owlets are "clambering" for food. On each attempt, at least one closely approaches the opening of the box.

In the second video, recorded just before daylight this morning, the 5 owlets are resting comfortably (and nearly filling the nest box) when Momma arrives home looking for shelter from the rain:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Home Stretch

Fledging is getting very close. Momma spent almost half of yesterday (Saturday) outside of the box. Food is being delivered to the opening but seldom any farther. The owlets are clambering over each other to get it, occassionally reaching the opening and catching hold of the threshold. One of these night, Momma or Papa will lure the larger, bolder owlet to reach out a little too far and he/she will fall to the ground. From there there is no turning back.

Young screech owls leave the nest before they can fly. They walk and hop across the ground until they reach a nearby tree. Using their talons and beaks they will climb and find a perch where the adults can find them and bring them food. It is a time of excitement in the owl world but also a time of peril. They are still dependent on their parents. With 5 young to follow, the job of Momma and Papa will not be easy. I will assist if needed but as always, the purpose of this camera is to observe nature--not interfere.

It will be a time of sorrow for me because they will no longer be broadcast into my home. I will see them for a few days in the yard. Papa especially will defend them and we will have to watch out for his attacks (or are they distractions). Then they will be gone to fend for themselves.

Keep watching as they make this final leap of faith.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What are they eating??

For my friend Lisa (and others), unlike young eagles, the owlets are little pigs who eat very quickly. I have a tremendous benefit in figuring out what is going on when I review the recordings and can look at it frame by frame. Every time the owlets make a fuss and move up (toward the food and the camers) they are receiving some kind of treat from the adults. Over 100 last night!! Here is a still (frame grab from the video) of a moth brought in by the adults as food for the owlets last night. Note the large "eyes" of the Polyphemus moth on the wing:

Here is another image of a centipede about to be swallowed (it lasted about 3/100 of a second):

Only when the food is large and takes a while to swallow, is it easy to identify as is this mouse:

New Video

Now I will try this video, with audio, again and see if I can crash the entire Blogger network again. This is really just a random 1.5 minutes out of the middle of the day on Wednesday. Momma is spending a warm afternoon in the very crowded nest box with her 5 offspring. If you watch closely, you can see her mouth move as she "whinnies".

Blogger Back on Line

I tried to post a new entry yesterday, apparently just as the entire Blogger network crashed worldwide. My post must have been earth shaking so I won't try to recreate it today (Friday the 13th) and I can't upload the video I made so I will just try a couple of photos:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Learning to be an Owl

WARNING: The following nature video contains graphic violence against a mouse. Mouse lovers and those with queasy stomachs may wish to consider waiting for the next video of cute babies.

Actually, it is not so bad. And it is very important for young owls to learn how to fend for themselves. Momma is letting them do that more and more even as they remain in the nest box. Mice are delivered and left to be picked apart by the young or fed to them during the day. This is only the second time I have seen one of the owlets take it upon him/herself to eat the whole thing alone. After they fledge, I will clean out the box and look for owlet pellets for use in nature classes. It will be fun to see if we can separate mice from voles.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I have started recording with audio. It is unfortunately more noisy than I would like but I have managed to clean it up some. Here is a present to Momma Screech's followers for Mother's Day. She is a very dedicated mother; one who is rapidly being pushed out of her own nest box by her kids. I expect that within a few days, she will not even try to stay in during the day. Anyway, enjoy the following short video which has both Momma's voice, the screech owl "whinny" and the owlet "babble" sounds on it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

System Modifications

The technology of watching these Screech Owls has many components. The camera has sound but it has been too noisy to broadcast so I have had it turned off. I am hoping to either remedy that with the existing camera OR add a second camera outside the box with sound to pick up communications with Papa and maybe some owlet "babble". I will at least be posting some short, noisy, video shortly to give you some idea of the sounds involved in the screech owl nest box. Enjoy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Busy Days

The last couple of days have been very busy for both me and the owls. I will try to find time over the weekend to put together another video of the feeding frenzy that takes place every time Momma or Papa delivers food to the box during the night. In the mean time watch the live feed from dark until about 10:00 for many very short visits to the nest box with food. Much of the food the last couple of nights has been earthworms--I was surprised at first, but I guess if they are good for baby robins, they should be good for owlets to--AND they love them.

The Star Ledger is preparing an article on nature cams and a photographer was here yesterday to take some photos. Fortunately he was patient. Papa was well hidden in an apple tree where he did not want to be seen or photographed without a lot of effort. Momma was in the box until the owlets started to pester her for food. Finally, she stuck her head out and the photographer got a couple of pretty good shots. Watch for the article (don't know exactly when but I will let you know).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Eyes Have It

Here are just a few "Screen Grabs" from the last couple of nights. The owlets continue to grow and crowd Momma out of the nest box. Momma and Papa are doing all they can to keep the little mouths and stomachs full:


Under Momma's Wing:

Hey Bro! You don't taste as good as a mouse:

Waiting Patiently:

Here comes a worm:

The nest box is getting very crowded during the day. Momma will probably start spending the days with Papa on a branch soon:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Of Mice and Moths

I did a detailed log of last night's feeding activity. Between Momma's first fly-out at 8:09 p.m. last night and her final return at 5:36 a.m. this morning, she left the nest box 24 times! As all of the accounts of screech owl feeding behavior report, this activity was concentrated during, but not exclusively limited to, the early evening hours and before dawn.

Between 8:09 and 9:45 she flew out 10 times returning each time with a small meal that she shared with the owlets. Although it was often very difficult to identify what she caught, I did catch one photo of a medium size moth:

Between 9:45 p.m. and 2:40 a.m., Momma only left the nest box twice. BUT, that was the time that Papa was most active delivering food to her including this large moth, probably a Polyphemus or Luna moth which are both flying now:

and 2 rodents:

Then from 2:40 to 5:36 a.m., Momma flew an additional 12 "missions" returning once with a mouse and the rest of the times with smaller prey.

Total food for the night (minimum): 4 rodents and at least 30 insects! And that doesn't count whatever Momma and Papa ate for themselves outside the view of the camera.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eyes are Opening

The owlets are just about 1 week old now and their eyes are beginning to open.  As they do, they are also beginning to develop personalities.  Here is a short video from last night.  For the first 3 hours Momma did not return to sit in the box.  She returned with small food items and left within a minute each time.  This pattern allowed us lots of time to watch the owlets.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

People are Watching (and so is Papa)

I have had conversations with several people who are watching Momma Screech and reading the blog. My neighbor's are watching just before they go to bed and one of them drew a portrait of Momma that I wanted to share with you.

Thank you Calum.

I also caught a glimpse of Papa Screech just before nightfall tonight.  This is a typical view and I found him only because the Carolina Wren was pointing him out to me:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lifestyle change for Momma

Momma has had a significant lifestyle change in the last 24 hours. She is no longer trying to incubate the 6th egg and I do not expect it to hatch. Last night she began joining Papa in the quest for food, spending as long as 45 minutes at a time, several times during the night out of the nest box. Once she retuned with a mouse (BTW, I use the term "mouse" loosely to refer to any small rodent that may also include the abundant voles in my Backyard Habitat). Papa brought in an additional 3 mice and several smaller items (probably moths). Momma is doing all of the feeding, entering the box and preparing the meals in bite size pieces for the owlets. It still looks like their eyes are closed but they are certainly increasing in size rapidly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

For those of you who missed last nights 8:00 to 9:00 evening feeding and fly-out, here is a summary of the hightlights.  It is a little long (8 minutes) but I wanted to give everyone a chance to try to sort out the 5 owlets in the mass of "owldom" in the box.

The first mouse (video) was delivered at 8:04 p.m.  Dad followed with another at 10:30.  At 10:55 Momma took a second break for 5 minutes and returned with a third mouse.  At 11:37, Papa brought a fourth mouse but Momma did not seem to want it so he took it back with him (his dinner??).  Papa was not done for the night though.  He brought two more rodents, one at 1:38 and the last at 4:14.  When he arrived with the last one, Momma was in the middle of feeding the owlets so he entered the box, dropped it in the back corner, and left it for later.

Throughout the night, Momma alternated between periods of feeding and resting.  Just before the sun came up, she took her last break at 5:15 a.m. and I was able to see that the sixth egg has still not hatched. 

It may be my imagination but it seems like the owlets have nearly doubled in size already.  Their eyes are still closed but they all seem strong.

Monday, April 25, 2011

One egg left; Lots of owlets to feed

Last night there was a storm at the time that Momma Screech normally takes her break right after dark.  She stayed in the box to protect the newly hatched owlets.  The male brought food to her throughout the night including several small objects (probably moths or other large insects), a bird, and at least one rodent.  She finally took her first break at 2:22 a.m. revealing that there is only one egg left in the nest.  It is very difficult to count the young either in the following picture or in the video (not prepared for publication) but there do seem to be 5 healthy owlets. 

At this stage they are blind, fluffy and helpless.  It is going to be a very difficult task for the adults to provide enough food for all of these young.  The box is also very small and they will grow fast. 

During the day yesterday, Momma fed the newly hatched owlets from food she cached during the day.  Hopefully she was able to cache some last night also.  Soon, she will not be able to rely on Papa alone and will have to start hunting herself also.  Stay tuned and let me know if you were following this natural phenomenon on Earth Day/Easter weekend.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

EASTER SURPRISE--4 Owlets hatch

Between yesterday morning's break and this morning's (5:35), Momma Screech welcomed 4 new owls into the world.  The first sign of hatching was a view of an egg shell at 2:34 in the afternoon (4/23) followed by a brief view of a motionless ball of fluff at 3:03.  She spent the entire day on top of the remaining eggs and the newly hatched owlet(s).  At 8:15 in the evening, she retrieved a cached mouse, picked small pieces off of it and fed one of the owlets.  The camera managed to capture that moment but you have to watch very closely:

Momma never took an evening break.  Apparently, she spent the rest of the night assisting other eggs hatch and feeding the newly hatched owlets.  Virtually all of the activity took place under her body out of sight of the camera.  At about 5:30 on Easter morning, April 24, she finally took a break of about 6 minutes and gave us a view of the brood.

With 4 owlets and still 2 eggs to brood, Momma (and Papa) is going to be very busy for a few weeks.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


At least one, probably 2 owlets, seen in video this evening.  Will post video tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fun Owl Photos

A couple of years ago, I had a chance to borrow a very expensive infrared camera for a couple of hours.  Here are a couple of shots taken late at night.  This was just before the young fledged in 2008.  In the first, Momma is looking out of her box on the tree:

In the second, Papa has just buzzed my head and landed on a branch.  Notice that the brightest yellow is the warmest area of his body:

I could track them in flight on the camera screen but could not record fast enough unless they were stationary.  It did allow me to figure out where they were hunting and when they were returning to the box to feed the owlets.  I wish I could afford the really fast model!!

Why is it taking so long?

Nature develops many strategies to ensure the survival of young.  In birds, one of these is that a clutch of eggs may all hatch at nearly the same time (synchronous hatching) or at quite different time (asynchronous hatching).  Each strategy can have its advantages and disadvantages.

Eagles utilize asynchronous hatching.  As soon as the first egg is laid, the adults begin incubation.  If you were watching the nest cam at Duke Farms this year, you noticed that the first chick to hatch preceeded the second by only 2 days.  None-the-less, when it was 3 days old and the second was one day old, it got all of the food!  That is until it finally fell asleep.  In the presence of abundant food, the second chick received ample food and rapidly caught up with its older sibling.  If food supplies are not adequate, it is common (and to humans unpleasant) to see a case of siblingcide where the older chick eliminates the younger.  This is nature's way of assuring that the young that do survive are strong and able to care for themselves as soon as possible--one healthy offspring is better that two who are struggling.

To give the young that hatch later a better chance, many birds delay incubation of the first eggs.  This causes all of the eggs to hatch over a shorter period of time, evening out their ages.  Peregrine Falcons, like those in Jersey City, utilize synchronous hatching.  After the first egg was laid, the parents kept it warm but serious incubation didn't begin until after the 4th egg was laid.  In this way, all of the chicks should hatch within a short period of time.

Momma Screech laid 6 eggs over a 12 day period.  If every egg hatched the same number of days after it was laid, the last owlet would have no chance against the first.  When Momma laid the first eggs, she left them alone in the nestbox for up to an hour at a time, 2-3 times each night.  Only after the 4th egg did she start her current schedule of brooding the eggs essentially 24 hours per day taking only 2 breaks of less than 15 minutes each.   Since the incubation period for Screech Owls is reported to be 26 days and it has now been 26 days since the 4th egg was laid, we should start to see hatching soon.  And, if things go well, the eggs should hatch within a shorter period.

Still, it is going to be a struggle for all six owlets to survive.  It will take a lot of food for Momma and Papa to be able to successfuly raise that many.  As far as I know, she has never fledged more than 3.  So wish them all the best but remember, we are watching nature in action.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Silent Flight of the Owl

Still no eggs have hatched but when she flew this morning Momma Screech gave us a beautiful view of the flutings on her wing feathers. Look at the leading edge of the wing for the tooth shaped structures. It is these features, technically called fimbriae, on the primary wing feathers that allow owls to fly silently through the forest.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Update 4/17 with new video

As of Sunday morning, April 17, there are still 6 eggs in the nest and Momma is continuing to brood. There was a storm last night--very windy, lots of rain, and thunder with lightning. Momma didn't take a break from the eggs until 10:00. Papa brought her food at the height of the storm and I managed to clip a video of it:

Keep checking the live feed and I will keep updating the videos as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Owlets Yet

As of 6:00 a.m. today (morning flyout) there were still 6 eggs in the nest. With storms (including thunder and lightning) predicted for this evening, her schedule is likely to be disrupted.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All Set for Hatching

The last piece of equipment I needed to be able to broadcast live and record simultaneously arrived yesterday. It is in place and operational. Now I won't miss the first sign of hatching and I will be able to show it to you even if it is at 3:00 a.m. and you are asleep.

The references say that incubation lasts 26 days. Since the first egg was laid on March 20, that could be as early as tomorrow, Friday, April 15.

Unfortunately, the same references differ on whether the young hatch "synchronously" or not. What this means is that some birds (the Peregrine Falcons in Jersey City, for example) lay more than one egg before they begin to incubate them. The result is that the young all hatch at nearly the same time. Although Momma Screech did stay in the box during the days, she did not begin her "close sitting" at night until the 4th egg. The first 3 eggs were left alone for periods of time up to 2 hours. Since the 4th egg was laid, she has never left them for more than about 10-15 minutes. Will that delay the hatch of the first eggs?? Watch with me and find out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Long Wait

Well, Momma Screech surprised me again on March 29 and one last time on March 31 with her fifth and sixth eggs. Now the books do say that an Eastern Screech Owl can lay from 2-8 eggs but this nest box is not really that large. Remember that before they fledge, the young owlets are nearly adult size so imagine 6 owlets the size of Momma squeezed into this nest box. We will have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, Momma has settled into a very consistant pattern. She is in the nest box day and night except for one short fly-out just after dark (right around 8:00 p.m. EDT) and a second just before daylight. Sometimes the male follows her back in the morning. At least once each night he visits the box, seldom entering but simply dropping a mouse or other (often unidentifiable) food in for Momma. One night I was able to catch her as she consumed this food. WARNING: Sometimes nature is not for the squeemish!

The owl's digestive system is uniquely designed to handle swallowing food whole. The digestible portions are passed down into the stomach while the undigestible hair and bones are regurgitated as dry "pellets". By collecting and examining these pellets, we can go back and figure out what that owl has been eating. In searching the yard, I have located the branch where it appears Momma and her husband meet each evening. The ground below the branch is a rich source of owl pellets.

Laying and Brooding Eggs

March 20 brought a major change to Momma Screech Owl's life. During that day she did not sleep as she usually did. She was awake and moving most of the day. When she flew out at dark she left behind the first of her eggs for the 2011 season:

On March 22, she laid the second egg. Here is a video from that evening:

According to information on the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology site, screech owls typically lay 3-4 eggs with the second egg laid 2 days after the first and the rest laid daily after that. Not my Momma Screech! She laid her eggs on 3/20, 3/22, 3/24, and 3/26. Here is a video from the night of March 26-27:

Then, with no more eggs through the night of March 28, I figured she was done. At that point, I stopped recording every night and left the live broadcast on UStream for the world to watch. Little did I know . . .

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nest Prep and Courtship

During February, Momma Screech owl's schedule was very irregular.  She would spend an occassional day in the box but usually she spent the days outside.  Where was she?  Why?  What was more important to her?  I can only guess by watching her nightly visits to the box. 

On the days she spent outside, the box was often visited by a squirrel, presumably a female also looking for a place to start a family.  Each night when the owl returned, she would disturb and remove, to the best of her ability, any nesting material the squirrel brought in.  On February 23, I recorded the following:

During this period, she was not alone!  The following video was made on February 24:

On February 27, the box was so full she spent more than 2 hours.  She would repeatedly enter the box and burrow into the leaves and other material, lifting it with her back and pushing it up and out through the opening.  What was left  behind she would simply shred in the box and "sculpt" into the cup of the nest.

By March 13, the squirrel had given up and was no longer trying to claim the nest box.  On that night, the male returned to the box with a "gift" which is apparently part of the courtship routine. 

Although he left with it and she followed him, she soon returned and spent the day in the nest box. Then, starting on March 16, Momma began spending every day in the nest box.  Her nights were still mostly spent outside with occassional visits every night to the box, often  in the company of the male but only for a few seconds before she chased  him out.  Then  On March 20 . . . (see next entry on eggs)

In the Beginning

This gray-phase Eastern Screech Owl began using our nest box in the spring of 2007.  Although it was used it for nesting each year, when the young fledged, she left and the squirrels took over.  By mid-winter the box was stuffed full of leaves and other nesting debris.  Each spring she would return, evict the squirrel and reclaim her nest box.  This past year was different.  After the young fledged, she returned in the early summer and continued to use the box, at least most of the time, for roosting.  This continued into December when I purchased the camera (Hawk Eye Nature Cam).  Before installing it in the box, I mounted it on a ladder and took the following video:

Then, on the night of January 31, 2011, while she was out on her evening of foraging in my Certified Backyard Habitat (National Wildlife Federation), I slipped the camera into the box and recorded her return:

Convinced that this would be another successful nesting season, I set out to document and share the experience of spring in the life of a pair of Eastern Screech Owls.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Blog!

This blog was created to share with you the life of an Eastern Screech Owl.  The box is located approximately 40 feet from our deck and she has raised young there for 4 years.  Until I put the camera in the nest box this winter, however, I knew very little about what was going on in her life.  Sometimes I would see her peeking out of the box just before dark or just as the sun came up but she would quickly pull her head in and pretend we didn't know she was there.  When the young fledged, the male would join her and protect his brood by dramatically announcing his presence.  This year is different--I will be watching.  I will be adding both future happenings and recalling past events from notes over the next few weeks as her eggs hatch and the young grow.  I hope you enjoy and learn along with me.