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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Romance is in the air

It has been a cold snowy month in Central New Jersey.  The cold finally broke about a week ago and it seems like the owls have sensed spring.  Activity at the nest box during the coldest times was very low with one of the adults (I am now pretty convinced it was the male roosting in the box almost everyday but very little activity after dark.  By very little I mean one, or at most two visits on any night back to the box and only rarely was this by both owls.  Atypical visit lasted no more than a minute--not very exciting if you were to stay awake waiting for it.  Thankfully, I can record and scan through the night in just a few minute.  Of course, I have no idea what they are doing away from the box except to say that I occasionally hear distant calling from the yard.

Since March 12, however, there have been nightly visits including last night when I recorded the following movie.  The entire clock time from fly out to the last visit shown was less than 20 minutes and I have compressed it to about 4.5 minutes for your pleasure.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Status Update March 7, 2015

One of the owls has been roosting in the box during the day every day (except for 3) since February 7.  This is very different from past years.  In the last  year that owlets were successfully fledged (2012), the female was the owl that roosted in the box but only a few times until just 2 days before she laid the first egg (then every day after that).

Another major difference this year is that nocturnal activity at the box has been very minimal compared to 2012 and other previous years.  Below is a video of the best  observation I have been able to make of the owls together in the box since the day they were both in there during the day.  In this video, one owl enters the box calling (a monotonic trill) followed immediately by the second.  Is the male chasing the female or is he leading her into the box to try to entice her to nest?  Or maybe it is something else entirely.

Anyway, enjoy this video and the live feed that I am trying to provide during daylight hours.  During the day, the roosting owl almost always "sleeps", a restless sleep interrupted by squirrels and small birds looking in to the box to see if she/he is there.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

One of the big mysteries to me is which owl is which.  In past years, I could tell the difference between the two individuals and identify the sex of each based on their behavior.  This year they appear to both be red-phased owls and I have not been able to identify any significantly different features.  Here is (I hope) the video that I tried to post a couple of days ago of the two together in the box.  This, by the way, is the only time I have ever seen both owls together for long periods of time.  In this case, the top owl as you are looking at it was there when the sun came up, the other owl joined during the daylight--I think in response to a marauding Cooper's Hawk that scattered the feeder birds about the same time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My owls are completely wild and are free to come and go as they please.  I make every effort to WATCH and not interfere with their activities in any way.  As a result there are things I don't know and have to deduce by continuing to watch.  My priority is to record and document their activities.  In order to do that, I use my computer to record from sundown to sunrise every day.  During the day, the Screech Owls (as do other nocturnal owls) spend virtually the entire time sleeping.

I will be trying to broadcast live during the day (I know that is the boring time) and preparing short videos from the nocturnal activities to share with you.  In central NJ, nesting (if it is going to occur) is due in mid-March.  By that time, I hope to be able to record and broadcast simultaneously.  At the moment it looks like I will need a second computer (newer than the one I have which is running on Windows XP) but I am looking at other options.

Tomorrow, I will share some of my observations from this and past years on the weeks leading up to nesting.  I also hope to have at least one video ready (but am struggling a bit with the updated software that is smarter than my brain).  More then.