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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Update, Video, and Question

Over the past week, the screech owls have been around but were not seen, either in the video or in the yard on either January 17 or 18.  I record every night from at least dark until dawn and log in a spreadsheet, every arrival and significant (and some not so significant) observations.  The following video is a clip from last night (1/19-20).  At 1:40 a.m., one of the owls (the one I have been calling Momma) was in the box, the second owl arrived and they almost instantly changed places.  Here is the action:

Now the question:  Many references discussing the Eastern Screech Owl mention that the male selects the cavity and then attracts the female by calling.  The female selects the male with the "best" nest cavity and presumable voice as well.  They are also believed to mate for life (of course if one passes away, a new mate may be found).  If one were to judge only on the above video, one would assume that the first owl was the male, and owl 2, the female.  I believe it is the other way around.  Evidence:

1)  This nest box has been used for 7 straight years.  The female (and if fact every owl I have ever seen looking out of the nest box including last night) has always been a gray phase bird.  The average life of a wild screech owl is about 14 years. I am assuming that the one in the box first last night is the same female that has been here for years.
2)  The difference in coloration (can't really see color in the night videos unfortunately) suggests that owl 2 is a red phase.  (NOTE:  the phase color does not indicate gender).  Two years ago the male was definitely a red phase, but last year, I am pretty sure they were both gray phase.  If the above are true this is a new male.
3)  In the video on 1/12, the owl in the box (tonight's owl 1) left for 12 seconds and returned with a grub--too quickly I believe to have dug it up on its own.  That suggests that the owl that was not visible provided it to owl 1--typical behavior for a courting male.

We will all have to keep watching to find out for sure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Couple of Words on 2013

I have recently replaced the camera in my nest box with a new Hawkeye Nature Cam (  Some may notice that the owls enter from the opposite side of the image this year--still the same box and placement in my oak tree--just more logical for me since it now is what I see from my window.  I also have a second Hawkeye Cam (their original model), mounted outside the box that I can monitor during daylight and early evening/morning and save still images from the front of the box outside. I don't anticipate broadcasting from that cam unless someone out there has a substantial amount of money to contribute to the hardware and effort necessary.

The new camera has great sound but I have issues broadcasting audio apparently due to an incompatibility between UStream and the Dazzle digital-to-video converter I am using.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

Finally, Blogger, YouTube, Pinnacle Studio, and UStream (all of which I use to bring you my simple, lovely owls) are constantly changing and I need to figure out the changes (improvements?) available since last year.  For the next couple of weeks, I will be changing things in the broadcast periodically as I learn.  Hopefully, by the time that Momma Owl is there more frequently and ready for egg laying in March, I will have it all figured out and the broadcast can be on-line most of the time for your pleasure.

If you become a member of this blog, you will be kept up to date on all of the happenings.  Thanks for joining us!

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's a new year for Momma Owl

The 2013 Screech Owl year is beginning.  Last year on January 9, I recorded encounters between Momma and Papa at the nest box.  Last weekend (1/12/13) they returned again.  The following video records some of the sounds Momma was making as she interacted with her mate.  At one point, she leaves the box returning in 12 seconds with a grub.  Did she have time to catch her own, or did she take an offering from him.  I will post as interesting things transpire but remember that the first egg was not laid until March 12 last year.