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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.