Daily News Archive 2006

May 10 - After midnight, there were at least four small food deliveries before 2:18 AM, when Mme. Owl showed up with something large enough to divide among the owlets. She was gone by 2:30 AM, and back in the box by 3:24 for five minutes of cleaning. Following that, there were a minimum of five small deliveries. At 6:31 AM, Mme. Owl stopped by to feed something else to the owlets for the better part of ten minutes, then just hung around for almost another ten minutes.

Once again, Mme. Owl wasn't in the nest at all during the day, and that will be the case every day from now, all things being equal. This is normal behavior. It may reflect the fact that the box is becoming a bit crowded, that with the owlets seething around her all day, she'd never get any sleep, or it may be an element of the strategy to push the owlets to consider leaving the nest. (In service of this last goal, the adults will begin reducing food deliveries to the nest at some point in the near future.)

In the post-sunset hours, there were at least three small deliveries, including one Texas blind snake. Mme. Owl stopped-in at 9:20 PM to spend four minutes cleaning. After that there were a minimum of 12 small food deliveries, including another blind snake, and three items identifiable generally-speaking as insects. The deliveries stopped around 11:30 PM, when I started clearing fallen tree branches from beneath the nest box tree. There followed a bit of midnight lawn mowing. (The mover is electric, and therefore quiet, so the only neighbors who'll have looked out of their windows and thought me a nutter [and not for the first time], will have been those awake for reasons of their own.) The goal of all this was to remove as many obstacles as possible, so that fallen owlets will have an easy time reaching, and climbing, the nest box tree. (In case I haven't already mentioned it ten times, the owlets leave the nest a week before they can fly. They're called "branchers" during this phase of their lives. While it's probably a very exciting time for the owlets, it's nerve-wracking for me.)

Anyway, my clearing and mowing operation was closely observed by one of the adult owls, who obviously knows a shady character when he/she sees one.

Thanks for the latest group of postcards goes out to: Mark I., Jewell R.T., Kerry B., Diane G., and Diana the carver.

May 9 - There were at least three small food deliveries before Mme. Owl arrived at 1:49 AM to spend a few minutes cleaning the nest. She was back again at 2:34 AM to feed a mouse to the owlets. That took fourteen minutes, then she was on her way again. A minimum of three more small deliveries took place before dawn.

Mme. Owl did not spend any part of the day in the nest, for the first time this year. The eldest owlet managed to climb into the entryway and have a good look out of the box on several occasions today. This is the point in the nest process when I'd normally bring the box down and attach the "owlet rail" to the front, but one of the pulleys in the mounting bracket has rusted itself solid, and, while it's not difficult to replace (provided that everything goes as expected), I'm not comfortable with having the box down long enough to do the work. I haven't quite decided what, if anything, to do about this situation.

In the post-sunset hours, there were at least seven small deliveries (one was a blind snake, or maybe a worm), then Mme. Owl visited the nest for two minues starting at 11:51 PM. After that, there was one more small food delivery before midnight.

I think it will be several more days before the first owlet leaves the nest, but that's only a guess.

May 8 - At 12:07 AM, Mr. Owl delivered a Texas blind snake. Two minutes later, Mme. Owl followed-up with a caterpillar. A gecko arrived at 12:45 AM, and at least three more small items were delivered before Mme. Owl showed-up at 1:57 in order to get out of a rain shower. She hung around for 37 minutes, then was on her way again. She was back from 4:24-4:31 AM, during which she mostly sat on the perch, but also did a bit of cleaning. At least two more small items were delivered before she was on the perch again for a little while starting at 5:46 AM, then there were a minimum of four more small food deliveries before 6:31, when the eldest owlet had another go at climbing, and was rewarded with another look out through the entryway.

Mme. Owl returned for the day at 7:13 AM. She did a bit of cleaning and owlet preening, and was gone again by 8:29 AM. During that time, one of the owlets (probably the eldest, once again) managed to climb to the perch for the first time. He/she stayed there for eleven minutes, managing several looks out of the entryway, after mom had gone. Looking into the entryway throughout the day (four occasions) was a red-bellied woodpecker, who seems to be an incurable optimist with regard to this nest box. Personally, I'm hoping the woodpeckers will still want to nest in the box when the owls are done with it in a week or so, but that seems too convenient to actually happen. (Nonetheless, if it does, I'll leave the cam' running, albeit without daily commentary.)

The night began with the two eldest owlets trying to climb to the entryway. The one that made it there probably received the first food delivery of the evening, which is just one of the motivations for reaching that wonderous portal. There were no fewer than five small food deliveries (one was a gecko) before 9:36 PM when another Texas blind snake was delivered. At least two more small deliveries took place before another such snake (or a very long earthworm) was deliveried at 10:03 PM. (I'm hoping it was snakes; earthworms are hosts to some bird parasites that won't do the owlets any favors.) The next snake (or earthworm, though I think blind snakes are the best bet) arrived twenty minutes later, after another three small deliveries (one was a cricket or roach). Before midnight there were at least four more small deliveries, including two geckos. And that was that.

May 7 - Between midnight and 5:50 AM, there were at least eight small food deliveries (1 moth, 2 geckos, 1 partial bird, 4 unknowns). At 5:50 AM, Mr. Owl tried to present the owlets with an entire mouse, but they didn't know what to do with it, and he and the mouse soon departed. Mme. Owl stopped-by soon after to deliver a small prey item, then Mr. Owl tried to deliver the mouse again at 5:57 AM. The second attempt didn't work, either. There was at least one more small food delivery before dawn. Also in the pre-dawn hours, the eldest owlet (the eldest is the best bet, but I can't really be sure) made the year's first serious attempt at climbing and did extremely well; it managed to get a quick look through the entryway.

The day began without Mme. Owl in the nest box, but she showed up at 11:21 AM. She did some nest cleaning, and bit of owlet preening, then retired to the entryway, and was gone by 11:30 AM. The owlets spent the rest of the day sleeping, or milling about on the floor of the box, looking for something to do.

In the post-sunset hours, the first food delivery seems to have been at 8:50 PM, when Mr. Owl attempted to deliver part of a mouse. As usual, his effort failed, and he exited with the food. After that, there were at least two small food deliveries. The last of those appears to have been an anole delivered by Mme. Owl at 9:37 PM. The owlets appear to have fumbled the lizard, so she long enough to feed it to them, and do some cleaning. There were at least two more small deliveries before 11:11 PM, when Mme. Owl made her next visit. That one included a little cleaning, but the whole visit lasted less than two minutes. There were at least two more small deliveries before midnight, and that was that for the 7th of May.

May 6 - After midnight there were at least three small food deliveries (one was identifiable as a cockroach), then Mme. Owl showed up at 1:34 for three minutes of cleaning and owlet preening. There was at least one more small delivery before Mr. Owl arrived to offer a bird to the owlets at 2:49 AM. As usual, they didn't know what to do with it, and he took it with him when he left. A few minutes later, Mme. Owl arrived and sat on the perch for three or four minutes, probably waiting for some rain to subside. She didn't return until 4:03 AM, when she spent six minutes cleaning the nest and preening the owlets. She returned an hour and half later with the leftovers of a bird, which she fed to the owlets. A minimum of four small food deliveries followed (one was a fairly large caterpillar), then she returned to the nest box for the day at 7:05 AM.

She stayed in the nest until 10:12 AM, and then went to wherever she goes. The owlets spent the rest of the day variously sleeping, standing around, stretching, staring- and experimentally pecking-at things.

After sunset, Mr. Owl showed-up at 8:42 PM to offer the owlets half of a small bird. As usual, he left with his kill. At 8:54, Mme. Owl arrives with a type of snake I have never before seen delivered. She sticks around for four minutes, probably to help the owlets with the snake. At 9:17, Mr. Owl shows-up with half of a small bird, offers it to the owlets, and, for the first time, one of them takes the bird from him. He leaves, and the owlet starts trying to figure-out how to tear-up its own dinner, with some success. An hour later, Mme. Owl returns to the nest to do a bit of cleaning, and, finding fumbled fragments of the bird, gives those to the owlets. She's on her way again after eight minutes in the box. She returns at 11:02 to present one of the owlets with a caterpillar, then she does a bit of cleaning and is gone again. At least two small food deliveries follow before midnight.

May 5 - No update. Power was not restored until around 7:30 PM, and the cam' wasn't up and running again until 8:18 PM.

May 4 - No update. A severe thunder storm knocked-out power to my house (and tens of thousands of others) at 10:13 PM.

May 3 - During the pre-dawn hours, there were two feedings from large prey items by Mme. Owl, and at least eight small item deliveries. During this period, Mme. Owl returned twice to clean the nest box and give the owlets a perfunctory preening.

She returned to the nest for the day at 7:19 AM, but only stayed until the 8:32. Daytime temperatures hovered around 90 degrees in the nest, so one less warm body in there was probably helpful. (If you see the owlets standing around with their mouths open, they're doing "gullar fluttering", which is the bird equivalent of panting.)

Mme. Owl returned to the box at 8:20 PM, and gave the place a very brief cleaning before exiting a minute later. There were at least two small food deliveries before her return at 9:27 for two minutes of cleaning and owlet preening. After that, there were at least four small item deliveries, then Mr. Owl stopped by to offer the owlets some large prey item, which, of course, they didn't understand at all. As always, Mr. Owl left with his kill. After that, there was at least one small item delivery, then Mme. Owl stopped by at 11:57 PM to do a little cleaning. She was still in the box at midnight.

May 2 - Mr. Owl showed-up at 12:57 AM to offer the owlets a bird again, and, as usual, he quickly gave-up on them and left with his kill. After that there were two small food deliveries (one was identifiable as a gecko), then Mme. Owl made a four minute visit to do some nest box cleaning. Four small food deliveries followed in the hours leading up to 4:42 AM, when Mr. Owl again tried to give a bird to the owlets. They were excited enough, but none would actually take it from him, so he gave up and left with it. A few minutes later, Mme. Owl made a short visit to tidy-up the nest box a bit more, then was gone again. I'm surprised she didn't have her mate's latest kill with her, but she didn't. Go figure. There was another small food delivery between then and 5:46 AM, when Mr. Owl tried (and failed) once again to present the owlets with a bird.

Mme. Owl stopped-by for a few minutes of nest cleaning at 5:53 AM. By "cleaning" and "tidying" I mean that she uses her beak to feel around in the bedding material for lumps of owlet feces, and probably the tiny pellets produced by the owlets, and she swallows those that she finds. I'm guessing that she then leaves the nest to expel them, although I've never observed that. (I don't get to observe the owls outside of the nest with any regularity, and when I do, they're too busy watching me watch them to get on with behaving naturally. Owls: The birds that watch you.) Simplifying her cleaning efforts, at a certain age the owlets begin defecating in the corners of the box, rather than wherever they happen to be at the time. The owlets reached that age in the last day or so.

Before dawn, there were two more small food deliveries. Then Mme. Owl arrived for the day at 7:22 AM. She exited the nest box at 10:36 AM. She returned at 1:08 PM, but only stayed for 32 minutes. She was back at 5:02 PM, probably motivated by the rain that was moving through the area at the time.

Mme. Owl left the nest box for the evening at 8:07 PM. There were as many as 17 small food deliveries (3 of them geckos) between then and 10:41 PM, when Mr. Owl resumed his futile, nightly efforts to feed the owlets with birds almost as big as they are. Six minutes later, Mme. Owl showed-up with a bird (probably the same one that her mate had just tried to deliver), and she spent the next 13 minutes tearing it apart and feeding the youngsters. There was one more small item delivery before midnight, and that was that for May 2nd.

May 1 - In the pre-dawn hours, there was one small food delivery, then Mr. Owl appeared with a small bird. Once again, he tried to present it to the owlets, but quickly realized his mistake and exited with his kill. Mme. Owl came to the nest carrying the bird twelve minutes later. She fed the olwets for five minutes. There were two more small deliveries, then Mr. Owl returned to the box with a wet face and legs, carrying what was probably another small bird. As usual he offered it to the owlets, realized his mistake, and was on his way. [I'd love to know why he was wet. Did he get that way while capturing this latest kill (perhaps it was something acquatic rather than avian), or had he merely taken a bath recently?] After that, there were two more small food deliveries, probably by Mme. Owl.

Mme. Owl returned to the nest box before sunrise and stayed with the owlets until 3:49 PM. She spent most of the morning on the floor with the owlets, and much of the afternoon in the entryway. At 4:56 PM one of the owlets, probably the eldest, made the first climbing attempt I've observed this year. It wasn't much of an attempt, but it's a milestone all the same.

In the post-sunset hours, there were five small food deliveries, before Mme. Owl showed-up with a large item which she spent five minutes feeding to the owlets. After that, there were three more small deliveries before midnight.

Thanks to Shirley R. for the postcard-substitute!

April 30 - In the pre-dawn hours, there were three small, hit-and-run food deliveries, and Mme. Owl stopped by several times to tidy-up the nest and check on the owlets. Remarkably, there were also three large items delivered. The first was at 1:02 AM and the feeding lasted 19 minutes. The second was a cedar waxing at 4:36. That feeding lasted 30 minutes and left no scraps. The final one was delivered at 6:39 AM, and that feeding took just seven minutes.

In the daylight hours, Mme. Owl stayed with the owlets until 11:13 AM, then left the nest box. She returned at 1:49 PM for six minutes and then was gone for the remainder of the day. As the owlets mature, it's normal for them to be left alone during the day, although, off the top of my head, I think Mme. Owl has begun this phase a bit earlier than usual. The relatively high temperatures may be a contributing factor.

After the sun had set, Mme. Owl returned to the nest at 8:25 PM for two minutes of cleaning and then was off to hunt. Prior to 9:45 seven small food deliveries were made (one was a gecko, the others unidentifiable). At 9:45, Mr. Owl showed-up carrying a small bird which he tried to present to the owlets with no success. At least one of the owlets was enthusiastic enough, but completely unable to handle anything that large. The owlets haven't learned to tear-up large food items for themselves, and, of course, male screech owls lack the instinct to tear it up for them. He quickly recognized his mistake and exited with the bird, presumably to find his mate, so he could present the bird to her. Mme. Owl returned to the nest box an hour later, but without the bird. She cleaned the nest for a while, preened the owlets a bit, and then was gone again eighteen minutes later. She returned for more of the same (once again without the bird) at 11:56 PM, and was still with the owlets at midnight.

April 29 - In the early post-midnight hours, rainstorms moved through the area, leaving the adult owls with noticeably wet heads. Not that they showed the slightest signs of caring. They still managed at least 14 small food deliveries before dawn.

Mme. Owl spent the morning hours on the floor of the nest box, trying to sit on the owlets. For their part, the owlets were happy to be sat upon, seeing no reason why that should interfere with their perpetual motion. By the noon hour, Mme. Owl, seemingly ready for a rest, shifted to spending her time in the entryway, or on the perch inside the nest box (she spent two straight hours on the perch). When she did return to the floor with the owlets, she didn't try to brood them, though they routinely gravitated to her, sometimes inserting themselves beneath her. She gives no sign that that bothers her at all, but with owlets that are larger and more active with each passing day, it's also not a situation conducive to her rest, so it's easy to understand why she likes spending time in the entryway or on the perch.

In the post-sunset hours, there were at least 15 small food deliveries, and one item large enough that Mme. Owl had to tear it apart in order to feed it to the owlets.

April 28 - In the pre-dawn hours there may have been as many as nine deliveries of small food items, and, at 6:05 AM, Mme. Owl returned to the nest with a small bird, from which she fed herself and the owlets for fifteen minutes. When the feeding was complete, she removed the leftovers to her external food cache.

Mme. Owl spent unusually long periods on the perch inside the nest box today. This year's new perch, which has a three inch gap behind it, rather than the old two inch gap, must meet with owl approval. By the way, all of the owlets have now begun doing wing exercises, and even the youngest can open both eyes, and have a look at things, though he shows no special desire to do so, yet. In contrast, the older owlets are beginning to show curiousity about their surroundings.

In the post-sunset hours, there were 5 small food deliveries, give or take.

Thanks to Jan W., and Barbara K. for their postcards!

April 27 - At 1:49 AM, Mr. Owl delivered a small bird, and Mme. Owl fed the owlets from it until 2:06 AM. Afterward, she placed the bird in a corner. At 3:46 AM, she exited the box, not returning until 4:16 AM, when she resumed feeding the owlets from the bird leftovers. At 4:19 AM, Mr. Owl delivered another bird, probably a cedar waxwing. Mme. Owl was too busy feeding the owlets to take an interest, so Mr. Owl left with his kill. At 4:25 AM, the owlets were full, so Mme. Owl set the leftovers in a corner. She went out again at 5:30 and returned at 6:19 AM with part of a bird, probably the uneaten portion of the one Mr. Owl had attempted to deliver earlier. She promptly began feeding herself and the owlets. That went on for ten minutes, then she was gone again, returning for the day 15 minutes later, at 6:44 AM.

At 10:15 in the morning, Mme. Owl once again fed the owlets from the bird leftovers she'd stored in a corner of the box. That feeding lasted nine minutes, and finished-off the leftovers. Mme. Owl spent much of the rest of the day sitting in the entrway, watching the world go by.

After sunset, Mme. Owl left for ten minutes, then returned with half a bird, probably from her cache. She spent three minutes feeding herself and the owlets, then exited with the leftovers. At 8:49 PM, Mr. Owl showed-up with a gecko, which he managed to deliver to one of the owlets, who eventually managed to swallow it whole. There was another hit-and-run food delivery at 9:19, then Mme. Owl arrived with a gecko at 9:34 PM. She stayed a few minutes in order to tidy-up the nest a bit, then was gone again. At 10:23 PM, Mme. Owl returned with what might have been a large moth, which she presented to one of the owlets. She stayed ten minutes, then was on her way. She returned five minues later with another small item, then exited. At 10:47 PM, there was another hit-and-run delivery. At 11:14, Mr. Owl tried to deliver half of a small bird, but without his mate to receive it, he soon had to give up on the delivery and exit with his catch. (Male screech owls lack the instinct to tear-up large food items for owlets, so they don't know how to feed an owlet anything larger than it can swallow.)

April 26 - At 1:36 AM, Mme. Owl brought a large prey item, about the size as a small bird, to the owlets. She promptly spent 15 minutes feeding the kids. They were fed again from the same item between 3:42 and 3:48 AM. Mme. Owl then removed the leftovers to her external cache. At 5:06 AM, Mr. Owl delivered half of a small bird. (Presumably he'd already eaten the other half.) Mme. Owl spent eight mintutes freeding the owlets from that. At 6:05 AM, Mme. Owl returned to the nest box carrying the item she'd previously removed to her external cache. She placed it in a corner of the nest box, apparently planning ahead for daytime feedings.

The first, and last, feeding of the day ran from 11:34 AM to 11:45 AM. The owlets finished off those leftovers, and that was that. Mme. Owl spent the morning on the floor of the nest box with the kids, but spent four significant periods of the afternoon sitting in the entryway.

In the post-sunset hours, there were at least four small food items delivered (and probably more like seven). Three of them were geckos delivered by Mr. Owl.

By popular request, I've made a new movie available. This one runs almost 20 minutes, and begins with Mme. Owl delivering a bird at 2:33 AM yesterday. She spends the first 17 minutes feeding herself and the owlets. As with the previous movie, you'll want to download the link on that page (look for the line "This media file's URL: Link") directly to your disk.

April 25 - At 2:33 AM, Mme. Owl left the nest box and returned five minutes later carrying a bird that was probably a cedar waxwing. The first feeding lasted about 20 minutes, and owlet no. 4 received quite a bit of that, which is encouraging. Mme. Owl exited the box at 3 AM, returning at 3:55 to feed the owlets more of the bird. That feeding lasted 15 minutes, and the Mme. Owl was gone again. She returned 35 minutes later, tidied up the nest for 12 minutes, and exited. She returned 24 minutes later, at 6:36 AM, to feed the owlets more of the bird. That feeding lasted only three minutes. She did some cleaning, and was gone again by 6:43 AM. She came back ten minutes later, after having taken a bath.

From 9:48 to 9:55 AM, Mme. Owl again fed the owlets from the bird. Between 11:05 and 11:14 there was another feeding. The next was between 4:26 and 4:35 PM. The next feeding was at 7:47 PM and lasted six minutes. Mme. Owl spent relatively little of the day sitting in the entryway, and, despite that, there were no starling visits. Peculiar day, but all of those feedings were a good idea.

The post-sunset hours were comparatively uneventful. There were only two obvious food deliveries, both small items (one was a gecko), and, as the evening wore on and the temperature dropped into the mid-sixties, Mme. Owl spent much of her time in the box, brooding the owlets.

Thanks for the latest batch of postcards goes to: Debra G., Rozenn, Julie and her screech owl, Nancy C., Pat L., Nancy O. (Switzerland!), Nancy H. & Tim W., and Anna S.! (Eight postcards at once. That might be a record.)

April 24 - In the pre-dawn hours, there were at least four small food deliveries, and one unusually large bird brought in by Mme. Owl. The owlets were so full after just the first two feedings from that bird, that when Mr. Owl later arrived to offer them a perfectly nice caterpillar, he couldn't find any takers.

This morning, the starlings showed-up earlier than ever before, and persisted with their intrusions into the box's entryway for at least an hour. Mme. Owl could easily have deprived them of access by sitting in the entryway, but instead chose to assume a threat posture on the floor of the box and wait them out. She did, however, spend most of the afternoon sitting in the entryway, while the owlets alternately slept, or stumbled around the floor. Over the course of the day, she got four more feedings out of the leftover bird.

The post-sunset hours included at least four small food deliveries, one of them a gecko. Mme. Owl was out of the nest, presumably hunting, about 75% of the time, her absences made practical by the ever-increasing size of the owlets, and nest box temperatures around 80 degrees.

By the way, owlet no. 2 (the eldest) started to darken in color noticeably about two days ago, as its feathers began to come-in. You can see something of this change in appearance by comparing owlet no. 4 (left) with no. 2 (right) in this image. This change is also apparent in owlet no. 3, who is not clearly visible in that image.

April 23 - In the pre-dawn hours, there were at least five feedings: 1 large-ish item, and 4 geckos. The large item was torn-up and distributed amongst the owlets. The geckos were probably given directly to whatever owlet was the most insistent and convenient.

The day was uneventful, and Mme. Owl spent much of it in the entryway, or sitting on the nest box floor next to, but not on, the owlets. With temperatures never dropping below 70 degrees in the nest, the owlets must have been warm enough without her help.

Mme. Owl was away from the nest during most of the post-sunset hours, though she returned regularly to provide food, clean the nest box, etc. Between she and her mate, there were at least 11 food deliveries. One was large enough that she had to tear it apart for the kids, while the other items were small and well-suited to hit-and-run feedings, because they could be presented whole to one of the owlets.

April 22 - There was a small food delivery at 1:35 AM. At 2:03 AM, Mme. Owl left the nest to retrieve the bird from which she had been feeding the owlets yesterday. She returned at 2:07 and proceeded to spend around 15 minutes catering for the kids. At 2:55 AM, her mate delivered a gecko. She exited the nest box carrying the lizard, and returned 4-5 minutes later; the usual round-trip flight-time for her food cache. Mr. Owl delivered something more at 3:10 AM, she exited with it shortly afterward, and was back in four minutes. Guess where that item went. At 5:40 AM, Mr. Owl made a small delivery, which his mate fed directly to the youngsters. At 6:05 AM, Mme. Owl went out and retreived the large item her mate had delivered at 3:10. She fed the owlets from it for five minutes, then set it aside in a corner. At 6:35 AM she left, and came back with a large gecko, probably from her cache. She presented it whole to the largest of the owlets, who eventually managed to swallow it.

In the post-sunrise hours, at 8:31 AM Mme. Owl spent ten minutes feeding the owlets more of the large item she'd previously stored in the corner of the box. There was some leftover, and that went into a corner for later. Later came at 10:36 AM, when she fed the last of it to the kids. The owlets were very active during the afternoon, and the eldest, even managed to open one eye a little bit. Mme. Owl spent as much of the day sitting in the entryway as she could, presumably due to nest box temperatures reaching 90 degrees. When observed, she would drop back into the box and stay there for quite a while before returning to the entry.

Post-sunet, Mme. Owl was out of the box from 8:15 to 8:24 PM, when she returned with a small food item for one of the owlets. She left immediately after the food hand-off. She returned for more hit-and-run feedings at 8:26 and 8:30 PM. (Just maybe that was Mr. Owl, if the items were small and his feeding technique has improved over the years.) At 8:45, she came back to tidy-up the nest, and to get in a bit of owlet herding. She was done with that by 9:01, when she left the nest for ten minutes. She must have come back with food, because she appeared to spend the next five minutes feeding the youngsters. At 9:24, Mr. Owl made a small food delivery, which was promptly distributed to the owlets. Mme. Owl was out of the box from 9:40 to 9:54, and out again beginning at 10:25 PM. There was another hit-and-run delivery at 10:27, then Mme. Owl returned with something big at 10:35. She seems to have spent at least ten minutes tearing it up and stuffing it into the owlets. She exited again at 11:41 PM, and hadn't returned as of midnight.

Thanks for the lastest postcards go to fellow Austinite Susan K., and a flock of Egyptologists: Solange, Salif, and Aaron. (I was fortunate enough to visit Egypt when I was something like 15 years old, after spending a summer studying Egyptology in a Rice University summer school program. The first week there was fascinating. The second week was dysentery.)

April 21 - At 3:39 AM, Mme. Owl retrieved the bird from her external food cache and brought it back to the nest box, whereupon she spent seven minutes feeding it to the owlets. She fed them more of it from 5:08 to 5:13 AM, then removed it from the nest box, returning five minutes later. Mr. Owl made a small delivery just before 6 AM, then Mme. Owl went out to retrieve the remnants of the bird, which she deposited in a corner of the nest box. Mr. Owl made another small delivery at 6:20 AM.

A starling showed-up early in the morning, but temporarily gave up its investigation after a few minutes. Beginning at 7:26 AM, Mme. Owl fed the last of the bird to the owlets. Shortly before 9 AM, a starling returned to the entryway, but didn't stay long.

The video capture hardware had another one of its inexplicable "freeze frame" failures, and recorded the same image over and over again between noon and 8 PM. Sigh.

Around 8:40 PM, Mme. Owl fed a small, delivered prey item to the owlets. She intermittently left the nest box and returned until 9:10, when she spent seven minutes feeding some new food item to the owlets. At 9:44 PM, Mr. Owl delivered a small bird. Mme. Owl spent the next ten minutes feeding the owlets, then set it aside. At 10:28 she resumed feeding the bird to the youngsters for four minutes. Ten minutes later, she removed the bird from the nest box. And that was about it for the post-sunset hours.

Five weeks down, a bit less than four to go.

By the way, the trick, as far as I can tell, to downloading the movie I created the other day is to go to the movie's page, then find the line on that page which reads "This media file's URL: Link". Next, right-click on "Link" (or, if you're a Mac user with a one button mouse, just hold down the mouse button for a little while). A pop-up menu will appear. In that menu there will be an item that reads something like "Download Linked File" or "Save Link to Disk" (it varies from browser to browser, but you get the idea). Choose that item, and specify where the movie should be saved on your computer. The download should begin at that point. The movie is very large, around 300 megabytes, so you'll need a fast Internet connection to make the download practical.

Also, bear in mind that you'll need some program that can play video encoded in the H.264 format. Typically, that means Apple's QuickTime 7 (Mac and Windows), but H.264 is an industry standard format (it's the same format the new HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs use for representing high definition movies), so some other programs should also be able to handle it.

April 20 - Mr. Owl delivered a small bird at 1:29 AM. Mme. Owl exited the nest box carrying it, but returned with it 30 seconds later, at which time she placed it in a corner. She began feeding it to the owlets 40 minutes later. The feeding lasted about three minutes. She then considered leaving with the bird, but didn't. It went back into the corner. Thirty minutes later she resumed feeding it to the kids. That feeding lasted about 15 minutes. Then she removed the leftovers from the nest box, returning seven minutes later. She went out and retrieved the bird from her food cache at 4:46 AM and fed it to the owlets for seven minutes, then placed it in a corner. Eleven minutes later she resumed feeding the owlets. That feeding lasted five minutes, then she left the box with the bird. At 6:23 AM she brought the remnants of the bird back to the nest and deposited them in a corner. At 7:41 AM she fed the hatchlings from the bird again. This is the first time this year that Mme. Owl has had the good sense to have food cached in the box during the day; an encouraging sign. Unfortunately, the bird was polished-off by 7:55 AM, so almost all of the day went by without further feedings.

Egg no. 4 hatched somewhere between 11:12 AM and 12:10 PM. Hatching probably began around 11:49 AM, but, of course, all of the action goes on beneath Mme. Owl, so it's hard to be sure about exactly when these things happen.

A starling stuck its head in the nest box at 5:43 PM, but didn't appear to linger.

In the post-sunset hours, Mr. Owl delivered another small bird at 8:22 PM, and Mme. Owl stored it in a corner. Possibly, there's a brief feeding, but, if so, it's not obvious. For whatever reason, Mme. Owl waits until 9:53 PM to begin feeding the bird to the owlets in earnest. Rains move through the area again, and a wet Mr. Owl makes two small food deliveries (which are presumably fed to the owlets on the spot) before Mme. Owl resumes feeding the bird to the owlets at 11:19 PM. That feeding lasts around ten minutes. Before midnight, Mr. Owl makes one more small delivery, and his mate removes the still substantial remains of the bird from the nest box.

April 19 - In the pre-dawn hours, the two hatchlings were fed five times, in every case on geckos. The day was quiet, with Mme. Owl once again spending much of the afternoon sitting in the entryway, while the owlets chaotically explored the floor of the box by feel (their eyes should begin opening in about a week). The post-sunset hours included three feedings, two from unidentified food items, and the third from a mouse. The mouse was only half eaten before the owlets were full, and Mme. Owl eventually removed it. Presumably she stored it in some nearby food cache, and it'll be back later as leftovers.

I'd like to give everyone a good look at a feeding session, and have accordingly digitized a ten minute session from the 18th at full size and full frame rate. The resulting movie is about 290 MB in length (using QuickTime's H.264 video codec). That's a lot of megabytes, but it's the only way to let you see and hear these events every bit as clearly as I see them here on my television (you won't have to rotate your head 90 degrees, however). Unfortunately, placing it on this site for download could create enough bandwidth usage to make my department reconsider its support for this little endeavor of mine. To avoid that problem, I have uploaded it to the Ourmedia site I mentioned repeatedly last year. At this point, I've uploaded quite a few movies to that site, and all but three have vanished into the ether. The three that the site says are available, I have never managed to access. So, Ourmedia's promise has not been matched by its reliability. That said, the site claims my latest feeding movie can be seen at: http://www.ourmedia.org/node/208439. Perhaps by the time you read this, that link will actually lead to a playable movie. I'm not optimistic, but if you find that it does, please drop me a line; it'd make a pleasant surprise.

Thanks to Nicky D., Patricia M., and Chuck D. for their postcards!

April 18 - Egg no. 3 hatched somewhere between 1:23 and 3:06 AM. The new hatchling looks and sounds strong, and was fortunate enough to receive several feedings before dawn. Mme. Owl does seem to be maintaining a food cache, but not in the nest box, so there are no feedings during the day, which worries me a little. Nonetheless, the owlets appear to have plenty of energy; while Mme. Owl spent most of the afternoon in the entryway, the youngsters did laps around the floor. They don't move especially well, because they're still at the "flailing on their bellies" stage, but given time, they do get about.

By the way, at 11:51 this morning, a red-bellied woodpecker checked on the availability of the nest box for the second time this season. It quickly realized the box was still occupied and left.

April 17 - At 12:40 AM Mme. Owl removed the body of owlet no. 1 from the nest box. She returned to the nest eight minutes later. At 1:44 AM she left the box again, returning seven minutes later with the body, which she proceeded to eat. Waste not, want not, I suppose.

Mme. Owl left the nest box for reasons of her own at 3:56 AM. Due to my concern about ants in the nest box as a possible cause of owlet no. 1's death, I took that opportunity to bring down the nest box and investigate. Only a few dozen ants were found, mostly on the outside of the box. All of them were the tiny, black ants that I'm accustomed to hearing referred to as "sugar ants". They are completely harmless in my experience.

A search of the bedding material and the roof camera compartment showed no signs of the ants. Opening the side camera compartment wasn't practical during a "quick look" inspection like this, but neither its camera window, nor its underside inspection window showed any sign of ants.

One of the three eggs had already begun to hatch (not evident in that photo), and could be heard emitting peeping sounds. Strangely, it and both of the other eggs are covered with small, dark spots to varying degrees. The spots are not things stuck to the outside of the egg shells; they are part of the shells, and do not affect their surface texture. In all of my experience, and to the best of my knowledge, screech owl eggs are always pure white, so those spots leave me with questions.

Mme. Owl returned to the nest box at 4:27 AM, and, after a quick inspection, she was sitting on the eggs again.

At this point, all I can do is hope that whatever killed owlet no. 1 will not affect the remaining three.

There were no starling visits today. With temperatures in the mid 90s, the day was far from relaxing, however. And it didn't help that egg no. 2 hatched this afternoon, somewhere between 3:30 and 5:03 PM. The new owlet appears strong and is vocalizing, which are good signs, but, then, the ill-fated first hatchling looked good at the start, too, so my optimism is AWOL at this point.

With no food cached in the nest box, the new hatchling had to wait until around 9:15 PM for its first feeding (sunset was at 8PM), which wasn't encouraging, in large part because the only moisture the owlets will take in until they learn to fly is that which they receive from their food. In this heat, that must present some hydration challenges. Fortunately, the 9:15 gecko meal was followed by another gecko at 9:30, so the owlet should be well fed for the moment.

At 9:42 PM, Mr. Owl delivered a Texas blind snake, which I was hoping Mme. Owl would fumble, so the snake could wriggle into the safety of the bedding material, and thereafter eat some of the ants and other insects that visit the nest. Unfortunately, Mme. Owl seems to have the hang of blind snake eating, and the snake did not escape. However, the ant presence in the box seems to have declined a bit since early this afternoon when I put a dish of water at the foot of the tree, just in case the ants were drawn to the nest box in a search for moisture.

April 16 - Egg no. 1 hatched at some point during the day. The owlet seemed healthy and active. Nonetheless, it was dead by 8:30 PM. Reviewing the video footage, it appears the owlet was being irritated by ants. Whether they were responsible for its death, I can't say. An examination of the trunk of the nest box tree shows no obvious indication of trails of ants, and examining the outside of the nest box up close while perched on the top of a ladder, offered no obvious answers, but the inspection was cut short when I was attacked by Mr. Owl.

My inclination as of this writing is to bring the box down and clean out its ant population before another owlet is potentially at risk. Of course, removing whatever ants are present does nothing to prevent other ants from returning to the nest box, the ants may not have killed the owlet in the first place (Gehlbach seems to indicate that the only problem with ants in a nest are that they make off with stored food, but if they happen to be fire ants, I'm confident they could do a lot more harm than that), and there's a small chance (very small, I think) that by disturbing this nest without hatchlings, the nest will be abandoned. So, you can see that none of my options are unambiguously good at this point.

April 15 - In the pre-dawn hours, there were at least four food deliveries and Mme. Owl was out of the nest on five occasions. The day was remarkably quiet. As far as I can tell, there wasn't a single starling visit. Late in the afternoon, Mme. Owl spent some time sitting in the entryway, but that doesn't appear to have been a defensive tactic. In the post-sunset hours, there was at least one food delivery, and two absences.

April 14 - In the pre-dawn hours, there were at least five food deliveries. In the daylight hours, surprisingly, there don't appear to have been any starling visits. Maybe they were put off by Mme. Owl sitting in the entryway for much of yesterday afternoon. She didn't bother with that this afternoon, however. In the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl was out of the nest box on seven occasions, while only one food delivery was caught on camera. It is happenings like this evening's that drive my speculation that many food deliveries are being made outside the nest.

Thanks to Kris & Kat A. for the postcard!

April 13 - In the pre-dawn hours, only one food delivery was observed, but Mme. Owl was also away from the nest on three occasions, and she might have received or obtained food on those occasions. With morning came the starlings, as usual, but they started a bit later than usual, and were a lot more restrained than in previous weeks; they appear to have poked their heads into the box only twice, about two hours apart, before giving up for the day. A little bit before the starlings gave up, a red-bellied woodpecker stopped by the nest box, almost certainly looking for a nest site. Seeing Mme. Owl, the woodpecker left and didn't come back. (That's the kind of sense one expects from native birds, but not from starlings, unfortunately.)

During the afternoon, Mme. Owl repeatedly left the eggs to sit in the entryway. Whether she did that to keep the starlings at bay, to cool off (the nest box interior reached 90 degrees today), or just to relieve the boredom of sitting in a box all day, every day, I can't say. It is safe to say that the warm weather gives her the option of being away from the eggs.

In the post-sunset hours, she was only away twice, and received at least two food deliveries, one of which was captured clearly.

By the way, if last year's first-egg incubation time of ≅28.9 days holds for this year's first egg, we can expect the first hatchling somewhere around 8PM on Sunday.

Thanks to Stacy L., and Carol F. for the postcards! Carol reminds me that she's been watching my owls every year for seven years, which kind of startled me. Not only does that mean that there are people who've been watching since the very first year the nest box went on-line, but it's actually been seven years since that happened. Wow. Technologically, the nest box cam' has advanced dramatically in that time, as you can see from this representative image from the 2000 season. Emotionally, it's been a rough ride, with more bad outcomes than good, for a variety of reasons, not all of them known. That's been hard to take. But, I hope, a great many people have learned a lot over the course of this effort, and I know that a good number have been motivated to install their own nest boxes for screech owls (and other species), with many good results. That's been very satisfying. And, fortunately, my owls' luck with their owlets has been improving in recent years, so the ride has become a bit less bumpy. Here's hoping that trend will continue.

April 12 - As usual, starling intrusions began with the day. They continued until the noon hour. In an unusual move, Mme. Owl spent several minutes in the early morning sitting in the entryway, to prevent the starling visits. This goes against her inclination to stay out of sight during the day, so the starlings must annoy her considerably. (No surprise there.)

The image capture system went off in the weeds again today. The problem began at 4:46 PM and stubbornly persisted until 11:25 PM, when I got my hands on the equipment and started unplugging cables and restarting software. Consequently, many of today's events were not observed.

Thanks to Mindy, and to Nancy C., for their postcards!

April 11 - Remarkably little activity today. In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was absent only twice, and neither absence lasted as much as ten minutes. The starlings showed-up with the daylight, but Mme. Owl seems to have frightened them off sometime shortly after eight in the morning. They timidly poked their heads through the entryway a few times in the noon hour, but don't seem to have tried anything in the afernoon. In the post-sunset hours she left the nest only four times, and never for more than eight minutes. No food deliveries were caught by the camera either before dawn or after sunset, though I have no doubt that food deliveries were made.

Thanks for the latest set of postcards goes to Betty M., Gerry P., Cheryl N., and Joan C.!

April 10 - The starlings pretty much left Mme. Owl alone today, because she seems to have made an effective attack on the first starling that set foot in the box this morning. Apparently, that made quite an impression.

In addition to the usual small food deliveries, there was one large-ish prey item delivered in the pre-dawn hours. Mme. Owl followed her mate outside while carrying it, presumably to share with him. In the post-sunset hours, the only identifiable delivery was what appeared to be a Texas blind snake. Mme. Owl had the usual difficulty getting it down, because those snakes are usually delivered alive, and they can often slither out of an owl faster than the owl can swallow them. It makes for a very peculiar sort of race.

April 9 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was away from the nest on four occasions. All absences were brief. There were at least three food deliveries. With the morning came the starlings. They were most active between 7:20 and 9:00 AM. They seemed to avoid the nest box from noon until around 6 PM, after which they poked their heads in several times before sunset. In the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl was away on three occasions, the lengthiest absence being her 16 minute excursion shortly after sunset. She received at least four food deliveries.

April 8 - In the pre-dawn hours there were a minimum of four food deliveries. In the post-sunset hours, there were a minimum of five. Starling activity during the day remains the big story. The starlings grew noticeably bolder today, by entering the nest box and sitting on the perch above Mme. Owl. She had no difficulty chasing them out, but had no luck keeping them out. Even a dramatic kill-you-if-I-can manuever only bought her a bit more than four hours of relative peace (the starlings would still look in from the entryway, but wouldn't come in). By mid-afternoon their courage, or recklessness, had returned, and so they were back on the perch above Mme. Owl. Not that she let them stay long on any of these occasions.

April 7 - Overall, an unremarkable day, but the starlings remained active at the nest box all day, so they're spending more time at the box than ever. Sigh.

Postcards! Thanks to Donna H., René C. (Canada), Family M., and Kathie E. (India!).

April 6 - The starlings made nuisances of themselves all day - not constantly, but routinely. The goal of their visits was to drop more nest materials into the box from the safety of entryway, as if the only problem with their plans for the nest box was that they hadn't yet constructed a nest in it. I seem to remember reading that starlings are rated as unusually intelligent birds (they show impressive resourcefulness in other contexts), but this behavior suggests a less favorable conclusion about their mental capacities to me.

Leaving all that aside, the central fact about them is that they are not native to the Americas, and their competition with our native birds is destructive. Mme. Owl will not be deterred by them, and because screech owls begin nesting a month before most other birds, the owls are always likely to claim nesting cavities before the starlings can do so. Other, small, cavity-nesting bird species won't be so fortunate.

Picture of the day: A picture-perfect food delivery, probably a large grasshopper.

April 5 - The pre-dawn and post-sunset periods were very much what we've seen every night for a while now. Food deliveries, absences from the eggs in proportion to the temperature. The usual. There's not much to cover there. The major question I had was "what were the starlings up to today?" and to that I have no answer, for reasons that are explained below. What follows is a programmer's rant; non-programmers (there must be some of you out there) will probably want to skip it.

The nest box video capture jammed a bit before 7 AM and stayed that way until I noticed it a bit before 2 PM. The software didn't crash, it just kept "capturing" the image from a bit before 7. How this is possible, I don't know. I long ago took every countermeasure I could think of: the temporary files into which the video is captured are given one-time unique names, and deleted after every capture, the software exits and is relaunched every eight hours, etc. I don't know if the problem is in QuickTime or QuickTime for Java, but both APIs, for all the amazing work they can do if you can find the right incantation and the wind is blowing in the right direction, seem predicated on the notion that programmers like to beat their heads against brick walls, and enjoy crashes and bizarre errors. Classic "Programmers Hate Programmers" material, in my opinion. Life is too short to deal with APIs as rickety as these, but if there's another (semi-)cross-platform Java video capture API, I haven't come across it.

April 4 - As the day dawned, the starlings resumed their effort to build a nest on top of Mme. Owl. However, shortly after that frame was recorded, she seems to have found a way to discourage the starlings, because they didn't try any more of that for the rest of the day. The pre-dawn and post-sunset hours were quite ordinary. Food was delivered (in that case a gecko), food was eaten, eggs were sat upon, breaks were taken.

April 3 - The pre-dawn and post-sunset hours were unremarkable, but the day was a vision of the 2001 nesting season when the starlings tried building a nest on top of Mme. Owl. They didn't get that far today, but they did drop nest materials on her from the relative safety of the entryway during the afternoon. Tomorrow, presumably, they'll be even more annoying.

April 2 - Shortly after midnight, Mr. Owl brought a small bird to the nest box. Mme. Owl will have accepted it, and then followed him out of the nest box carrying it. They'll have shared it at some convenient perch nearby over the next six minutes. After that, I saw no indications of further food deliveries (and no indications that Mme. Owl wanted any).

In the morning, starlings showed-up bearing nest construction materials. They thoroughly annoyed Mme. Owl until noon, and then gave up for the day. Undoubtably, they'll be back tomorrow.

In the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl was only away from the nest four times. Apart from her usual post-sunset constitutional, which lasted 20 minutes, none of her absences exceed a few minutes in duration.

April 1 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl slipped out five or six times, usually for a only a minute or two. I suspect she was meeting her mate on a nearby branch to receive food deliveries. Why he'd be making deliveries that way, I don't know, but it seems like the best explanation for the lack of apparent deliveries and the very short absences of Mme. Owl.

In post-dawn hours, the starlings were back, and relatively bold, but then they abruptly backed-off. Perhaps Mme. Owl gave them a quick reminder of the error of their ways. Whatever happened, the starlings stayed away from the nest box for most of the morning and all of the afternoon.

In the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl received a number of food deliveries, though she had to call her mate for the first one. Given that the weather was warm (it was 90 degrees this afternoon), prey species, especially geckos, should have been readily available. I have no idea what kept him from making the first food delivery of the night in a more timely manner. Due to that warm weather, Mme. Owl was able to leave the eggs for more than hour. She probably used the opportunity to have a bath, and do a bit of hunting.

March 31 - Mme. Owl spent all morning fighting starlings. Presumably, she didn't manage to seriously injure any, because they kept coming back, but she gave it the old college try. By afternoon, she'd adopted more proactive tactics and began spending time sitting in the entryway. With no place to land, the starlings had no good way to harass her, and if even that didn't put them off, she could fight them on her terms for a change, instead of theirs. By sunset she'd spent five or six periods sitting guard in the entryway, though usually for only a few minutes at a time. The starlings backed off, and presumably she was satisfied with the results. Compared to spending the day dealing with the starlings, the night, during which nothing out of the ordinary happened, must have been pleasantly routine.

Two weeks down. Six to go.

Thanks to Bruce for the first postcard of the season.

March 30 - Today, the starlings don't seem to have risked doing more than standing in the entryway and staring into the box, but where the starlings are concerned, Mme. Owl's temper is justifiably short. After that image was recorded, the starlings became noticeably more timid about their visits.

Observed food items were all geckos, except for what was probably one Texas blind snake.

March 29 - In the pre-sunrise hours, temperatures in the high 50s allowed Mme. Owl to leave the eggs a number of times, though never for longer than 18 minutes. With sunrise came the starlings, more aggressive than the day before, as expected. Mme. Owl was in no mood to put up with their intrusions, and made a very creditable attack on one of them. Undoubtedly, the starling got away, but it was followed into the entryway by two footfuls of angry owl talons, which are weapons not to be taken lightly. For the remainder of the morning, the starlngs confined their activities to peeking in through the entryway.

Temperatures in the low 70s allowed Mme. Owl to take a post-sunset break of 40 minutes. After that, she only left the eggs once, for about two minutes. Mr. Owl made a number of food deliveries, so that's going smoothly.

March 28 - Thunderstorms rolled through the area this morning, dropping about an inch of rain per hour. Mme. Owl listened carefully to the storms, but stayed calm, and on her eggs. The storm spared her the annoyance of the usual, morning starling intrusions, but seems to have cost me my loyal, old data acquisition box. Until I can integrate new data acquisition gear into my setup, I'm going to be more-or-less oblivious to the comings and goings of the owls. Sigh.

The starlings did return to the nest box, but not until somewhere around noon. Their visits persisted into the mid-afternoon, but were more cautious than on recent days, which suggests that Mme. Owl gave them something to think about at some point yesterday. Being starlings, they won't stay intimidated for long, of course.

March 27 - Starling aggression continues to increase in severity and duration. They appear to have plucked up the courage to enter the box in the last day or two, and today their invasions persisted until nearly 4 PM, where they had previously been confined to the first few hours after sunrise.

Though the night was warm, Mme. Owl made only very brief journeys out of the nest box, the longest being her post-sunset constitutional of about eight minutes. There were quite a few shorter excursions. Some of her behavior suggests to me that she's going out to receive food from her mate, but that's not something I can confirm. A further problem with that hypothesis is that Mr. Owl does make food deliveries directly to her in the box, so why should he vary his behavior? On the other hand, outside food deliveries would explain why absences are both numerous and short. Put it down as a mystery for the time being.

March 26 - In the pre-dawn period, temperatures dropped into the high 30s, which kept Mme. Owl's absences from the eggs very short; the longest was nine minutes; the shortest was about 30 seconds. In the post-dawn hours, the starlings stepped-up their morning harassment of Mme. Owl, but otherwise it was an unremarkable day. In the warm, post-sunset period, Mr. Owl seemed to make a good number of food deliveries, and Mme. Owl was in and out of the box quite a bit, though she kept her absences under 11 minutes.

March 25 - Egg no. 4 appeared this evening, sometime between 7:35 PM and 10:14 PM. My best guess is that it was laid at 8:24 PM. This is probably the final egg, though a total of six is possible. Otherwise, the day was ordinary enough: Starling visits in the morning; a peaceful afternoon; increasingly routine food deliveries throughout the night.

A number of postcards arrived after last year's nesting concluded, some of which I had the presence of mind to set aside so I could eventually thank people, and some of which went straight into the collection (oops). Thanks to everyone, and in no particular order: Amy, Gerald T., N. Cole, Dale P. for the artwork, Catherine W., Linda P., Roxie, Laurie J., and Annette Z.

March 24 - Because Mme. Owl is only now beginning serious brooding, the previous days hadn't seen much in the way of food deliveries by Mr. Owl (not directly to the nest, at least), but now that she's spending most of her time in the nest box, even at night, the food deliveries have begun. Most notably, he delivered a small bird at 12:46 AM. Having given it to his mate, he exited the box, and she followed after him, carrying the bird. I presume they find a convenient branch nearby and share the kill on these occasions. Before dawn, Mr. Owl made two other deliveries that lasted long enough to be caught in one of the stored frames. His ability to catch large prey bodes well for the owlets.

The day was quiet apart from the morning's usual starling visits. Between sunset and midnight, Mme. Owl was absent only four times, with no absence longer than her post-sunset constitutional, which lasted 20 minutes.

March 23 - Egg no. 3 appeared today. It first became visible at 6:48 PM, and it must have been laid after 5:54 AM, when Mme. Owl returned to the nest box for the day. My guess is it was laid before noon, given that she seemed to have a peaceful afternoon.

In principle, the gap between eggs is supposed to increase with each egg. However, in this case, the gap has decreased, so I was surprised to see it today. Double-checking Gehlbach's book, I see that I shouldn't have been surprised by the gap between eggs 2 and 3, but the gap between 1 and 2 was way outside of the 1.1 ±0.3 days that Gehlbach encountered in his decades of study. As Sallie, the raptor rehabilitator, often reminds me, the birds don't read the books, so some weirdness is to be expected.

By the way, I was fortunate enough to meet Fred Gehlbach last year when he came to Austin to give a presentation to the local chapter of the Audobon society. He's a very interesting man. Catch one of his presentations if you have the chance.

March 22 - Mme. Owl brooded the eggs until 12:25 AM, then left. She returned a little after 6 AM. Starling visits kept her on her guard between and 7 and 9 AM, but after that, things calmed down and she seemed to get an unusual amount of sleep this afternoon. She exited the box at 7:05 PM, and had not returned as of midnight.

March 21 - Mme. Owl returned to the nest box around 3:20 AM this morning. Starlings annoyed her by poking their heads into the box throughout the morning. The afternoon was reasonably quiet. At 6:43 PM she got up to sit in the entryway, and watch the sun set. That gave us our first look at egg no. 2. My best guess is that it was laid at 5:48 PM. After sunset, she was out of the nest for three and a half hours (apart from a few quick visits), then returned to brood the eggs at 10:38 PM. She was still doing so at midnight.

March 20 - Thunderstorms notwithstanding, Mme. Owl was out all night, not returning to the box until 6:12 AM. She probably weathered the storm in one of the more sheltered of her usual roosts in the neighborhood (wherever those are). She brooded the egg all day, and then exited the box at sunset. As of midnight, she hadn't returned.

By the way, if you know anyone considering doing any significant tree trimming this spring, ask them to hold off until summer or fall. As everyone knows, spring is breeding season for most birds, and tree trimming destroys a lot of nests, including nests people didn't even know they had, until the eggs or hatchlings (or pups) come spilling out. Wildlife rehabilitators are swamped with displaced eggs and young every spring for this reason. As dedicated and successful as the rehabbers are, they'll be the first to tell you that the youngsters would be better off being raised by their parents. So ask people to hold off on that tree trimming.

If you do happen across displaced eggs/youngsters, contact your local rehabbers. If you can't find a contact person through that link, call your county seat and ask for the game warden; the warden should know what to do.

March 19 - Slow day. (There'll be a lot of these over the course of the next month.) Mme. Owl isn't yet ready to begin incubation in earnest, so, after guarding the nest box all day from starlings who believe it's their nest, she left the box at 6:57 PM, and stayed out, even as thunderstorms rolled through the area. Mr. Owl visited the box briefly during her absence, probably to deliver food, but finding his mate away, he didn't visit again.

March 18 - Egg no. 1 was laid this evening at 11:13 PM. Mr. Owl was present at the time, trying to present a nice, big gecko to his mate with with an accompaniment of heartfelt trills. She didn't even acknowledge his presence, and after a few minutes he gave up and exited with the lizard.

By the way, the cam' was down repeatedly this evening, and early on the 19th, due to a hard disk failure. I should have been keeping backups, of course, but once you more-or-less fill-up all the drives your machine will hold (and on a PowerMac G5, that's a grand total of two), a pile of extra drives, and an enclosure and controller to handle them all never seems to appear out of thin air the way you'd like it to. So, as I try to dig my way out of this hole, with all the problems that implies, expect more cam' downtime in the coming week. (Dear Apple, what's the point of having drives with SMART on them, if you don't bother to alert the owner when problems are detected? [String of obscenities goes here.])

March 17 - Mme. Owl spends the day in the nest box for the first time this year. There goes my spare time....

March 11 - Brought the nest box down to remove starling nest material, clean some dust out of the side camera compartment, reposition the infrared emitter in the entryway, and give all the glass yet another cleaning before nesting begins. The owls are visiting the nest box several times every night, and have been doing so since the beginning of the month, but it's hard to know when nesting will begin.

February 4 - Evicted the fox squirrel that'd been calling the nest box home, and proceeded to replace almost all of the cables running between my house and the box. Also rewired the roof camera compartment to use a video modem to receive its power and transmit its video. Then rewired the entryway sensor such that its infrared emitter draws its power from the roof camera setup, rather than from the house. Then cleaned-out the nest box, replaced the bedding material, and put the whole thing back in the tree. Twelve hours of non-stop work. Ouch. The new cabling scheme is simpler than the previous one (three cables running to the box, instead of seven) and therefore should be more reliable. The entryway sensor now works for the first time since its cabling went south during last year's nesting.

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!