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Monday, May 14, 2012

Bye, bye Baby!

At 8:19 this evening, the young owlet finally got up the courage to lean out and fly.  Shortly after, I stepped out the door and was "attacked" by Papa who will defend the young one and Momma for the next few days.  I didn't try very hard to search for them tonight--best to let the young one follow its parents to a safe secure perch for the night.  Tomorrow, I will try to locate their daytime roost and share a photo.  For now, here is the farewell video:

Stay tuned for outside photos.

And still here!

I checked back to last year and fledging took longer than the books say but this is ridiculous!  Maybe tonight.  In the mean time, here is a photo of the owlet looking out yesterday (and no, I do not know why he/she looks yellowish.

And feeding last night included a Cecropia Moth.  I used to raise the large silk moths (Luna, Polyphemus, and Cecropia) but that is not possible with screech owls feeding baby nearby.  A couple of years ago, I caught Papa on top of the mating cage picking off the male moths as they arrived.  Here is proof of the problem from last night:

A nice meal for a young one, and here is a photo of the owlet stretching its wings:

Check in tonight.  It has to leave soon because I have run out of recording space for videos even though I delete most of them!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baby Resists Leaving

It is 29 days since hatching and baby is still clinging to his nest box.  Momma is seldom leaving him(or is it her?) any food when she leaves.  She often feeds from a mouse until the owlet doesn't seem to want any more, then takes the rest out of the box presumably to eat herself.

Early in the evenings, most of the food brought in by both Momma and Papa are small moths, grubs, worms, and other, often unidentifiable insect.  One night Papa brought something that looked like a Dobsonfly.  Here is an early evening video from May 7 and some larger insects from a couple of nights earlier.

Later in the evening, the fare changes to rodents with Momma still preparing most of them for the owlet.  He is swallowing larger and larger pieces though so a whole mouse, which is typical adult food, should be soon either in or out of the nest box.  This morning was the first time this year that I have seen the food include a bird.  Identity of the bird is pending but it obviously did not have the best morning.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Left Alone

Today, Momma did not return to the nest box for the day for the first time since March 5, two full months of constant care for her young.  She left the owlet alone.

Throughout the night both Momma and Papa were bringing food.  Unlike early in it's life though, no food has been left behind.  If the food was a mouse, Momma would prepare and feed some of it, and take the rest away with her when she left.  Baby would climb after her, as if to follow, but always returned to the floor waiting.  With daylight here and no mother, he is restless and keeps peeking out to see what is going on.

Will he leave tonight or stay for a couple of more days?  Only time will tell.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Time Goes By So Fast!

I apologize to my viewers that I have not posted more.  It is hard to believe that it is 23 days since the egg hatched.  Typically, young screech owls fledge at 26 days so we don't have much longer to watch.  Last night, the baby owl displayed two actions indicating that it is nearly ready to leave--frequent stretching and flapping of its young wings, and climbing to the entry to wait for food.  In a couple of days, it will climb and take the plunge to the ground, never to return to the nest box of its birth.  Enjoy this video and the next couple of days of live feed:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Papa's Role is Changing

The baby owlet is growing up:

Up until now, all of the food has been prepared and fed to the owlet by Momma.  Papa has been a great provider delivering up to 4 rodents (mice and larger voles) to the box, but it has been Momma who has prepared the small pieces that the baby has needed.  Early in the morning of April 26 (about 2 weeks old), Momma let Papa enter the box with a rodent and they "talked".  Later that morning and the next evening, food was delivered (I believe by both Momma and Papa, although I still have a hard time telling them apart) in pieces and fed from the entry--not with the owlet hidden under Momma's belly or wing.  From now on, either parent can feed.  It will also provide much more interesting viewing as the young owlet will be looking up for his next meal.  Check around 8-9:00 E.D.T and then throughout the night to watch feeding live.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Under Momma's Wing

If you have ever wondered about the origin of the phrase to take another person, especially a young person, "under your wing," you will wonder no more after watching this video.

There is only going to be one owlet this year.  I don't know what happened to the other eggs but they are far beyond hatching date.  With only one baby to feed, Momma and Papa will be able to provide ample food for rapid growth.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good and not so good.

The first owlet of 2012 hatched on Thursday, April 12.  My best guess, based on her behavior during the day, is that it was late morning and that she was feeding it by mid-afternoon.  Unfortunately, the other two eggs have not hatched as of this morning (Sunday) and they should have done so.  That may mean that they are not going to hatch.  Was the squirrel surprise to blame?  Or something else?  We may never know.

Anyway, one owlet appears very healthy.  Papa is providing a lot of food.  Momma had 3 mice cached for the hatching on Thursday (did she know it was going to happen??).  Papa brought her a 4th early in the evening.  As any of you who have been watching during the day (especially Saturday) know, there are a lot of flies attracted to the nest box.  Last night (Saturday/Sunday) Papa brought her one mouse early (11:28 p.m.) which she took but she sent him away when he arrived with more mice at 12:05 and again at 2:33.  She must know that if she keeps too many, they will just attract more flies.  She ate quite a bit herself and of course fed the young one throughout the night so the "cache" has been reduced a bit.

Here is a view of the owlet when she flew at 5:40 this morning (Sunday).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Two Eggs and a Baby!

 Finally.  Momma owl had two cached rodents and papa brought in several grubs and moths over night.  I could tell that she was feeding something under her body but she kept it well hidden until she took this short break at 4:30.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Eyes Have It

While we are waiting, I thought I would answer a couple of questions from viewers:

1)  Why does Momma look up?  Is she looking at the camera?

2)  And then one from a follower:  He commented about the tapetum lucidum whose visible effect is the eyeshine seen in the videos.  He asked whether owls were the only birds that displayed this feature.  Well that sent me to do some research because, to be honest, I didn't even recognize the term.  Here it is displayed in Momma's eyes in a video grab from last night:

First, the easy one.  Momma is not looking at the camera.  The light from the camera is in the infrared region of the spectrum and owls (like humans) can not see in the infrared.  She is looking up because there are tree branches above the nest box and Papa (as well as squirrels and other birds) sit up there.  She has very good hearing and I suspect that many times during the night Papa is above the box.  In some cases, he even sits on the top of the box, especially just before he delivers a meal.

Second, the tapetum lucidum is a layer in the eye that reflects light back to the photoreceptors on the back surface of the eye to improve night vision.  Humans do not have this layer but cats, racoons, and other mammals that are most active at night do.  You will see its effect as eyeshine in the headlights of a car.  Owls have this layer as well and it apparently also reflects infrared light as seen in the photo.  Do other birds have a tapetum lucidum as well?  The only ones I could find a reference to were the nighthawks and nightjars (Poorwills).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hatch recalculation (April 11-12)

I went back and examined my records.  For your information, I do record every night and in the morning I log every departure and arrival, every feeding by papa, and any other events I think are significant (NOTE:  unless there is something exciting, I delete the recording after logging because they take up so much disc space).  The three eggs were laid on March 12, 14, and the last on the evening of March 16.  However, she did not begin "close sitting," meaning that she incubated the eggs essentially full time, until early on March 17. 

Some birds (including screech owls and peregrine falcons) have young that hatch synchronously (i.e. at the same time).  Bald Eagles, and many other birds, do not hatch sychronously and, as a result, one of the young may be substantially bigger than the other(s) for the first couple of days and have a significantly higher chance of survival.  In order to achieve nearly simultaneous hatching the female will delay incubation, leaving the first eggs for long periods without sitting on them.

With a reported incubation period of 26 days that means if we use March 16-17 as the start, the night of April 11-12 would be hatch night.  Last year with 6 eggs, she began close sitting after the fourth egg.  Watch with me as we learn more.

BTW, to Denise--Birds roll their eggs so that the heat from their body is distributed evenly over the eggs during incubation and so that the membrane inside the egg doesn't stick to the shell.  All, or at least most, birds roll their eggs.  Adult screech owls are about 8.5 inches tall.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Morning; no owlets yet

It is Easter and, as of the last time she flew at about 4:00 a.m., none of the eggs have hatched.  I thought yesterday that one of them had but she had just buried it under the remains of a mouse or vole she had for dinner.  Anyway we are still waiting but it should be any day now.

At the request of an anonymous fan, I have uploaded a video I made of papa delivering food this morning.  Prior to his arrival at 4:00 a.m., she had spent the entire night alone, occasionally readjusting herself and rolling the eggs but otherwise she had her usual 2 breaks during the night and that was all.  Life will change for her very soon.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Is today the day?

Based on information in the literature and last year's experience, the eggs could start to hatch today!  Interestingly, one of my friends pointed out that they hatched on Easter weekend last year (April 23 & 24) and this weekend is also Easter (although it is much earlier).  Let's see what happens.

Momma has been brooding very intently the past week.  Two breaks each night (8-12 minutes each) has been the only time she has spent off the eggs.  Although I log most activities (fly outs, returns, feedings), unfortunately, I was not diligent in tracking how many times she rolled the eggs each night.  My impression is that she is rolling them much less often this week (maybe once per hour or less) while she used to roll them every 10-15 minutes.  Papa has been feeding her diligently, both small meals of moths and unidentifiable morsels, and usually one whole mouse per night.  That should start to change dramatically when she/they are feeding young.  Start checking the live feed each night around 8:00 E.D.T. and for about an hour following for the best chance of viewing activity.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hatching due about April 6

Momma is brooding 3 eggs.  That will be all for this year; fewer than last year but quite normal.  The last egg was laid on March 16 so hatching is due about April 6, with all eggs hatching within a day or two of each other..  In the meantime, it may not be exciting but these are important times for her to work hard.  She usually takes a break shortly after dark (about8:00 p.m. EDT) and another before sun rise (about 5:30 a.m. but quite variable).  Papa delivers food to her as it is available.  As I was typing this (9:18 p.m.), Papa delivered a rodent, she swallowed it whole, and went back to brooding the eggs within about 2 minutes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Three eggs and a squirrel

Yesterday afternoon, momma was peacefully brooding her three eggs when she heard a noise outside the box. Watch what happens when a squirrel decides to intrude on her nest box!  Who do you think was the most surprised?

As of this morning (Monday, March 19) she still has 3 eggs and is a little overdue for laying a fourth if she is going to do so but . . .

Monday, March 12, 2012

We have an egg!

Momma laid her first egg of 2012 at 12:44 a.m.  Here are a couple of screen "grabs" from the video recording and a video short of the effort she had to put forth to produce it.  This is the first time I have actually found the laying on a video; don't know if that is because it was particularly difficult for her or if all of the rest were during the day when I have seldom recorded before.   

To hear her on the video, you will need to turn your volume up and put up with the awful camera noise for a while; sorry.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Still Waiting for Eggs

Patience is the game in an owl's life.  Although she had not laid any eggs as of this morning, she spent most of last night (except for about 2 hours early and an hour just before sunrise) in the box, most of it in "brooding" position.  In this position, she is generally facing the front, her body enlarged over much of the floor and she appears to be resting/sleeping.  She "woke up" occasionally to nibble on the mouse that she cached last night.  Papa checked in at least 3 times and they spoke to each other briefly each time.  Today is the seventh consecutive day spent in the box.

I will have the live feed on as much as possible.  At present there is usually no sound.  I may add sound at night if you want to check; there is much high frequency camera noise but if you turn your volume down to 50% or a little lower, you will be able to hear any calling that she does.  Calling should drop off considerably when she is sitting on eggs.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Egg Laying imminent?

Changes in behavior over the last two days have been profound.  The female has roosted in the box during the day every day.  She has spent a lot more time in and near the box at night.  The male delivered food to her at least 4 times last night--2 rodents (9:49 p.m. and 4:19 a.m.), a grub at midnight, and something unidentifiable about 11:00.  At daybreak, Momma entered the box shortly before 6:00 as she has the past few mornings but this time she was silent with the male staying on the roof calling until after 6:30.  She has been restless during the day today and many other birds are looking into the box as she moves about.  In recognition of the impending event, my friend Calum prepared a card that I will share with you.  Lots of rainbows for good luck!

I will have the live feed on at sundown (about 6:00 eastern standard time) when she should fly out and reveal any egg(s) that may have been laid during the day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Waiting for Eggs; Live Feed News

As of this morning, she has not laid any eggs but she has roosted in the box for 4 straight days.  The only time she spent that many days in the box last year was just before the first egg.  So any day now.  The live feed will be on periodically but does not have audio at present.  Enjoy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Papa Proves he is Ready

Early this morning, the male screech owl once again demonstrated that he is ready to provide for momma and her young during the nesting season.  In this unedited video he brings a mouse for her:

I am having some delays in preparing the live feed but hope to have it up and running before the eggs are laid.  Remember that the camera has some high frequency noise that you can minimize if you reduce the play-back volume on your computer.  Sorry.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Momma's Roosting Today!

Today was the first day of the spring that the female spent the entire day in the nest box!  Since my last post, night activity has been increasing steadily.  From February 19 through last night, nightly visits by both owls were recorded peaking on Thursday night with 8 visits for a total of more than 1.5 hours in the box.  On Saturday morning, Papa delivered a mouse and left it in the box.  Rather than eating it there, Momma picked it up and took it outside.

Last year, the first day she spent a day in the box was 3/5 and she did not start spending every day until 3/16 with the first egg laid on March 20.  I am setting up the computers for live feed so keep checking back here for the announcement!

Here are a couple of photos from the last few days:

And finally today:

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Courtship behavior is becoming almost nightly although it does not always occur in the next box.  Here are videos from the past week inside the box.  Note that neither owl is doing any daytime roosting in the box and has not since at least the end of November; at the same time, the squirrel has spent only 1 night in it.

Very early in the evening of February 8, I heard calling in the yard and recorded this in the box:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

January at the Nest Box

Slowly but steadily, nesting season is approaching.  I have been recording the nest box every night (and some days).  At least one owl entered the box during the nights of 12/4, 12/30, 1/7, 1/9 (2 owls on video below), 1/19 (1 owl calling on video below), and 1/29.  In addition, I have caught a couple of other visitors and here are some still shots.  The one that is hard to identify is a Carolina Wren:

Here are two videos, first of two owls from January 9th:

The second is from January 19th: