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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.