Daily News Archive 2007

May 12 - I thought I might attach the owlet rail late this afternoon, but first I had to clear the area beneath the nest box tree, so that any fallen owlets would have an unobstructed path to the tree trunk. (Have I mentioned recenlty that the owlets will leave the nest a week before they're able to fly? So, some falling out of the tree is to be expected.) Because I've been neglecting my gardening duties lately, that clearing took a lot longer than expected, and, while the owlet rail still isn't attached, at least the area beneath the tree is well prepared. Some of my activities were observed by one of the owlets, who seemed more curious than concerned by my antics. If last year is any guide, the first owlet is likely to leave the nest box tomorrow (Sunday) evening, shortly after sunset. The adults already seem to have increased their nighttime defense of the area.

With regard to food deliveries, I observed nine during the pre-dawn hours, and the same number over the post-sunset period.

May 11 - In the pre-dawn hours, the owlets received at least 14 food deliveries. In the post-sunset hours, there were a minimum of 9 deliveries, including what appeared to be a Texas blind snake, a species that I hadn't seen delivered this year until yesterday. There were probably more deliveries than I've counted above, by the way. With an owlet parked in the entryway more and more often, there'll be a growing number of deliveries that are transacted entirely within the entry hole, out of sight of the camera.

At some point soon, I'm going to have to bring the box down to attach the owlet rail. Not sure when I'll be doing that, but I'm guessing that I can't wait too much longer.

May 10 - Today was much the same as yesterday. I've run too short on time, once again, to compile the food delivery totals for today, but they don't seem to have been markedly different from yesterday's. At some point, the adults will begin reducing the number of food deliveries in order to encourage the owlets to leave the nest, but we don't seem to have reached that point so far.

Thanks for postcards go out to Rozen & Laura, Joan McC., Mariann C.A., and Mimi, Julia, & Jacob B.!

May 8 - There's no time for a normal update today, but that's just because I'm worn out. Everything in the nest box is proceeding normally.

May 9 - Another ordinary day. During the pre-dawn hours there were at least thirteen food deliveries, including a mouse, which Mme. Owl had to tear apart for the owlets. The day was uneventful, with the usual mix of sleeping, stretching, staring, etc., and a growing amount of climbing. The post-sunset hours included at minimum of twelve food deliveries.

May 7 - There were all of the usual events today: at least 17 food deliveries during the pre-dawn hours, and a minimum of 11 after sunset. Nothing surprising there, except that the counts seem a bit low, which is almost certainly an artifact of the way the data is gathered, rather than an actual decline in deliveries. No, the big news of the day is that at least two of the owlets made enormous progress at climbing today. At 11:30 AM one of them managed to perch on the perch for the first time, and by 12:11 PM, one of them managed to sit in the entryway for the first time. After sunset, one of the owlets returned to the entry and probably intercepted some food deliveries that way. The only surprise is that that owlet didn't stay in the entrance longer.

Thanks to Harriet & Michael V., Leena (of Finland!), Linda G., Cindy H., and Mark & Fereshteh I. for the postcards! (The fourth egg is probably burried somewhere in the bedding material.)

May 6 - In the hours before dawn, there were at least 23 food deliveries, and one cleaning visit from Mme. Owl. During the day, the owlet that I shall assume is the eldest, made its most successful climbs yet, and actually managed to get a good look out of the entryway. The hours after sunset began with a quick cleaning visit from Mme. Owl, then there were a minimum of 16 food deliveries.

May 5 - In the pre-dawn period, there were at least 15 food deliveries, and Mme. Owl dropped in to do some cleaning on four occasions, totalling only eight minutes. She returned once during the day, for seven minutes beginning at 9:36 AM. The most significant event of the day (or the night, for that matter), was the first climbing attempt made by any of these owlets, which happened at 4:28 PM. It failed, of course, but the idea is in their heads, and they'll keep at it until they figure it out.

During the post-sunset hours, there were a minimum of 14 food deliveries, and Mme. Owl stopped-by three times, for a total of nine minutes.

May 4 - The current routine is well established now: the owlets sit in the nest box, and the adults visit just long enough to drop-off food, and, in the case of Mme. Owl, to do an occasional bit of cleaning. This probably won't change until the owlets start climbing. Even then it won't change much until one of them becomes coordinated enough to climb into the entryway and monopolize the food deliveries.

So, the stats for today: During the pre-dawn hours there were at least 28 small food items delivered (no large items), and Mme. Owl was in the nest box only three times, for a combined total of 18 minutes. She wasn't around at dawn, but she did visit for six minutes beginning at 11:49 AM. She didn't show-up again until the post-sunset food deliveries began. There were at least 19 of those. Mme. Owl also made two nest cleaning visits, lasting three and four minutes, respectively.

Thanks to Laura & Joe J. for today's postcard!

May 3 - Mme. Owl was in the nest for only 114 minutes, divided amongst six visits, during the pre-dawn hours. During those hours, there were at least 24 food deliveries to the owlets. Mme. Owl was out of the nest for the day by 7:52 AM. The owlets amused themselves by staring at things, digging in the bedding material, stretching, wing exercises, and sleeping. Mme. Owl returned at 8:29 PM for two minutes of cleaning, then evening feedings commenced. There were at least 25 deliveries. Also, Mme. Owl spent 23 more minutes in the nest box, over the course of five more visits. Her primary concern during these visits seems to be nest hygiene, which she tries to maintain by removing the owlets' feces.

May 2 - Mme. Owl spent most of the pre-dawn hours out hunting; her time in the nest was less than 30 minutes, until she came back at 6:53 AM. Before then, there were at least thirteen food deliveries, although one failed, when Mr. Owl tried to present a bird, or something similarly large, to the keen but clueless owlets.

Mme. Owl stayed in the nest box until 11:45 AM. She returned at 7:48 PM, after sunset. She stopped by, apparently, only to check on the owlets, and was away again almost immediately. There followed at least five food deliveries before a passing thunderstorm caused a power failure at 9:48 PM. Power was probably restored in a timely manner, but Internet access wasn't available again until shortly after midnight.

Thanks go out to N. Cole, Linda H., and Jessica D. for today's postcards!

May 1 - Mme. Owl continues to be away almost all of the night hunting, and most of the day, too, perhaps to find a more peaceful roost than the nest box affords. During the pre-dawn hours, there were at least three small food deliveries, and two feedings from a bird that Mme. Owl brought in.

She spent the early portion of the day in the nest, but exited shortly after 10 AM, and didn't return until after sunset. In the post-sunset hours, there were at least four small food deliveries, and one fifteen minute feeding from another bird.

April 30 - During the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was away hunting almost all of the time. She and her mate made at least 19 food deliveries. One was a small bird that Mme. Owl fed to the owlets, but the other items were small enough to be directly presented to an owlet.

The day began with Mme. Owl still out the nest, but a starling poked its head into the box at 8:54 AM, and she returned moments later, so she must have been roosting in a nearby tree that afforded a view of the nest box. She was out again from 9:31 AM to 12:48 PM, probably returning because of rain that moved through the area. She spent the rest of the day in the nest box.

During the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl was out hunting most of the time. There were at least fourteen food deliveries before midnight.

Thanks to Carolyn J. for the postcard!

April 29 - Unfortunately, there's no time for a proper update today. Everything is going well. There was plenty of food, big and small. The only unusual activity was Mme. Owl leaving the nest box during the day. She was away on three occasions, for a total of around seven hours. This is normal behavior as the owlets grow larger and the weather warmer, but it is the first time we've seen it this year.

April 28 - There were at least six food deliveries during the pre-dawn hours, including a case where Mr. Owl tried to present a small bird to the owlets, even though it was bigger than any of them. He spent several minutes trying to deliver his prize to his uncomprehending offspring, then gave-up and exited with the bird. In addition to those food deliveries, the owlets also received four feedings from a small bird that Mme. Owl brought in about three hours before her mate tried to deliver his. Mme. Owl was out on ten occasions, totalling 302 minutes.

The day was ordinary, and Mme. Owl spent 289 minutes of it sitting in the entryway, above the hustle and bustle of the owlets.

In the post-sunset hours, there were at least eight food deliveries, including a small bird which Mme. Owl happened to be on-hand to receive. That bird lasted only thirteen minutes, with Mme. Owl swallowing the last of it herself. She was out of the nest on five occasions, totalling 180 minutes.

All of the owlets can now open their eyes, and they've begun to show curiousity about their surroundings, so expect to see them staring into the camera more and more from now on. (Trying to look in through its window, and possibly seeing their reflections in the glass, is more interesting than looking at most other things in the nest, so it tends to get a lot of attention.)

By the way, allow me to digress from the topic of the owls for a minute. A book has just been released about some friends of mine, David and Margaret Bamberger. A lot of Texans will have already heard of David, but most other people won't have. David made a small fortune selling first vacuum cleaners, then fried chicken. Rather than buying himself a life of luxury with that fortune, he's done things like buying Bracken Cave for Bat Conservation International, and, for himself, three thousand acres of the worst land in Blanco County, Texas (later expanded to 5,500) which he has spent the last 40+ years restoring to a good approximation of the state it would have been in prior to the destruction wreaked by European colonization. He wanted to show how well the land can work with its native habitat restored, and that ranching responsibly can leave the land progressively healthier, rather than increasingly damaged. The Bamberger Ranch now hosts 3,000 school children each year in its educational programs, and offers workshops and tours for adults, while providing a home for things as unusual as the world's last herd of Scimitar-horned Oryx, and its first chiroptorium. They even find the time to get in a bit of ranching, too.

So, remarkable people. And the release of the book Water From Stone provides them with an opportunity to bring their message of responsible land use and conservation to more people. One specific way they will be doing that over the next four weeks is to go on a book tour around Texas. If what I've described above sounds interesting, and you live in Texas, let me encourage you to take the opportunity to meet Jeffery Greene, the book's author, and the Bambergers. At least some of those occasions should include a presentation by David, which must include a slide show, because he was busy arranging slides as I left the ranch this evening, after an afternoon of photography. (You can see some of my photographs of the ranch, specifically the panoramas, on my panoramas page. That collection will be expanding and changing over the coming weeks as I add new ones, and reprocess some of the old ones.)

If you do meet the Bambergers, tell them Chris Johnson sent you. And ask for a bookmark.

April 27 - Between midnight and sunrise, Mme. Owl extracted three more feedings from the bird she brought in yesterday at 10:45 PM. She also brought back a gecko from one of her outings, which she fed to the owlets. In addition, there were at least seven food deliveries made by her mate.

The day was going smoothly and quietly until 2:14 PM when the cam' jammed for eight hours. For reasons best, and perhaps only, known to the QuickTime engineers, it captured the same video over and over again for all of that time. That's the first time this particular problem has cropped-up this year, and, with a bit of luck, it'll be the last. (Famous last words, I know.)

Once I'd returned home and rebooted the computer, normal video capture resumed. That was at 10:08 PM. From then until midnight the owlets received one feeding from Mme. Owl from some sort of large prey item, and at least three food deliveries from her mate. Mme. Owl was out twice, for a total of 84 minutes.

April 26 - During the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was out of the nest on four occasions, totalling 96 minutes. The bird she brought in during the post-sunset hours supplied two feedings, then she removed it from the nest, presumably to an external food cache. She returned from two subsequent outings with a small food item, and the remains of that bird, which supplied just one more feeding. In addition there was at least one food delivery from her mate.

Mme. Owl spent 96 minutes of the day, divided amongst three occasions, sitting in the entryway, watching the world go by.

The post-sunset hours began with Mme. Owl's usual constitutional, which lasted 37 minutes. While she was out, the owlets received at leave five food deliveries, presumably from their father. Mme. Owl was out on five more occasions, bringing the evening's total time away to 167 minutes. She returned from one of those absences with a small food item, and from another one with a small bird, which she promptly set about feeding to the owlets. Before midnight, her mate also made at least two more food deliveries.

By the way, at least two of the owlets can now open their eyes.

April 25 - Mme. Owl was out of the nest six times (totalling 189 minutes) during the pre-dawn hours, and while there appear to have been only three food deliveries, that was plenty, because one of them was Mme. Owl bringing in a small bird, which supplied five feedings over the course of the morning and early afternoon.

Of the daylight hours, Mme. Owl spent 134 minutes away from her owlet herding duties, sitting in the entryway, watching the world go by. The owlets have begun to feel an irresistable urge to exercise their wing muscles. Today, they only seemed to feel that urge while Mme. Owl was sitting on the floor with them; never when she was in the entryway, and their flapping practice would be unobstructed. Everything is more fun when Mom is around, I suppose.

By the way, owls (and all birds, as far as I know) cool themselves using a process called "gullar fluttering". They open their mouths, and flutter their throats, rapidly drawing air and in out of their mouths and throats. That passing air should permit moisture in their mouths and throats to evaporate, thereby providing evaporative cooling. Put simply, it's the bird equivalent of panting. So, when you see the owls standing around with their mouths slightly open, you know what's going on.

After sunset, Mme. Owl was out of the nest on five occasions, totalling 157 minutes. During her absences, the owlets received at least three food deliveries from their father. At 10:47 PM, Mme. Owl returned to the nest carrying another small bird which she spent quite some time feeding to the owlets. She'll get more feedings out of it tomorrow. During that feeding, Mr. Owl arrived with food, but he seems to have been ignored, and exited with his catch.

Thanks for today's postcards goes to Jennifer & Ken, Karen B. (say "hi" to Fred for me), Brian & Lora D., and, last but not least, Donna M. and her visiting students.

April 24 - During the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was away on 11 occasions, totalling 281 minutes. I think it is safe to assume that she has been using these outings for hunting, because she returned from at least five of them with food for the owlets. The combined efforts of both parents provided 12 food deliveries, including a small bird that Mme. Owl brought in at 5:51 AM. That bird provided eight feedings over the course of the day, and the early evening.

Mme. Owl began the post-sunset hours with her usual constitutional, then returned to feed the last of the morning's bird to the owlets. Five food deliveries followed, although only four seem to have been received, because, in one case, the male tried to deliver a large gecko to the owlets, and they wouldn't take it, since it was too big for them to swallow. He gave it the old college try, but after a minute and half he gave-up and exited with his catch.

Including her post-sunset constitutional, Mme. Owl was away on six occasions, totalling 154 minutes.

By the way, the eldest owlet can now open its eyes, though not very far. Also, you'll see that he/she is no longer exclusively covered in white down, but is beginning to show dark markings, especially on the wings. These are its first flight feathers beginning to come in.

April 23 - There were at least nine food deliveries in the pre-dawn hours, and Mme. Owl was out on three occasions, totalling 81 minutes. Two of those food deliveries appear to have been direct deliveries from the male owl to an owlet. Mme. Owl had no food items cached in the nest box as dawn arrived, so there were no feedings during the day. After sunset, there were at least eight food deliveries, the first of which occurred before Mme. Owl could take her post-sunset constitutional. She was out of the nest on eight occasions, totalling 160 minutes. At least five of the food deliveries occurred while she was out. It seems as though her mate happened to bring food items that were small enough for the owlets to swallow without Mme. Owl tearing them into pieces.

Thanks for postcards go out to Tom & Stefanie and Ben & Avery, the Ryan family, Donna H., Dennis & Michelle K., and Julie & David L.

April 22 - During the pre-dawn hours, the male owl made at least four food deliveries. Mme. Owl was out of the nest on eight occasions, for periods of time ranging from less than a minute to 63 minutes. (Her absences totalled 145 minutes.) She returned from at least two of those absences with food. Her big prize was a small bird that she returned with at 5:20 AM. That bird supplied one feeding before dawn, and five over the course of the day.

During the post-sunset hours, the male owl made at least eight food deliveries, one of which was small enough to be successfully presented directly to an owlet. Mme. Owl was out of the nest on six occasions, for periods of time ranging from less than a minute to 40 minutes. (Her absences totalled 75 minutes.) On one of those occasions, she removed a just-delivered food item, while she returned from two of them with food, though nothing large.

Egg no. 4 remains stubbornly unhatched.

April 21 - In the pre-dawn hours there were at least four food deliveries (although one appears to have failed because the female was away when the male arrived), three feedings from stored food items, or food items that Mme. Owl apparently retrieved from her external cache, and three outings by Mme. Owl, totalling 49 minutes.

There might have been two feedings during the day, but that interpretation is drawn into question by the lack of any obvious cache of food within the nest box. The owlets mostly stayed beneath mom today, presumably because the weather was noticeably cooler than it was yesterday.

Post-sunset, Mme. Owl toook her usual constitutional, and while she was away, her mate stopped by with a gecko. He attempted to give it to the owlets, but failed, so he exited with it. Mme. Owl returned two minutes later, after being away for a total of 24 minutes. There followed five food deliveries, a 7 minute outing by Mme. Owl, then a feeding of the owlets upon her return (she must have brought back food). She was away again 7 minutes later, this time for 18 minutes. There was another food delivery shortly after she returned, then she was out again 12 and, later, 9 minutes. When she returned at 11:16 PM, she must have brought food with her, because she immediately began feeding the youngsters. There were three more observed food deliveries (two of them geckos), before she exited at 11:46 PM, carrying the latter of those geckos, presumably so she could deposit it in her external food cache. She was still away as of midnight.

All of that aside, the big news today, in my opinion, is that egg no. 4 still hasn't hatched. At this point, I strongly suspect that it won't be hatching, and Mme. Owl may suspect the same, because there were times during the day that she didn't brood it. If egg no. 4 really is a dud, the good news is that there will be that much more food for the current owlets, so their chances of survival will improve.

April 20 - At least three food deliveries were received during the pre-dawn hours, but most of the food that the owlets received seems to have been provided by food items previously placed in Mme. Owl's external food cache. Specifically, she brought a small bird in at 1:48 AM, fed the owlets from it twice, then removed it at 2:48 AM. At 4:43 AM, she left again, and returned with the remainder of the bird eight minutes later. That provided one more feeding. She was out again from 5:09-5:38 AM, during which she took the opportunity to have a bath. She was away from 6:29-6:35, as well, and returned with a large food item on that occasion. She was out once more before dawn, for 13 minutes.

The day was uneventful, unless you count two feedings of the owlets from the prey item she brought in at 6:35 AM, and the seemingly constant wandering-about of the owlets; the warmth of the day having temporarily freed them of the need to stay under their nice, warm mom.

After sunset, Mme. Owl was away for her usual constitutional for 21 minutes. She returned, tended the owlets a bit, did some cleaning, and was out again for two minutes. This time she returned with food, and promptly began feeding the youngsters. She was out again for 19 minutes beginning at 9:06 PM, received a food delivery at 9:41, was away once more from 9:57-10:17 PM, and finally received the last observed food delivery of the day at 10:56 PM.

Thanks go out to Ellen C. for the postcard, and to Beth H. for going above and beyond the call!

April 19 - In the pre-dawn hours, there were seven food deliveries, including another small bird, which supplied two feedings before dawn, and at least one more during the morning. About an hour after receiving the second bird, Mme. Owl removed the first one, presumably depositing in a nearby food cache.

The day was quiet, apart from three starling visits; one late in the morning, and two late in the afternoon.

The post-sunset activity commenced with Mme. Owl going out for 22 minutes, shortly after sunset. When she returned, she was carrying a large prey item. I suspect it was the leftovers of the bird she removed during the pre-dawn hours. Whatever it was, she promptly began tearing it apart and feeding it to the owlets. By the time she was done, there was nothing left. (Owlets, like adult owls, but probably more so, need the bones, and every other part of a prey item, in their diet in order to receive proper nutrition, so nothing is wasted, apart from a few feathers here and there.) Afterward, Mme. Owl was absent for ten minutes. There followed two food deliveries from her mate. The second of them was a large gecko, which Mme. Owl eventually decided to remove, presumably, again, to a food cache nearby. She took her time doing so; she was away twelve minutes. Subsequent to her return she received three more food deliveries.

April 18 - The pre-dawn hours included only two observed food deliveries, but the second of them, at 2:55 AM, was a small, uniformly dark animal, possibly a bird or a bat. It supplied four feedings, and appeared to have been removed, presumably to an external food cache, before it was completely consumed, in which case it will have been the source of one additional feeding, which occurred just after sunset. Before dawn, Mme. Owl was away on two occasions, for a total of five minutes. One of those ventures was, therefore, probably to cache the leftovers of the small animal. The day appeared uneventful uneventful.

At 7:43 PM, Mme. Owl went to sit in the entryway, revealing that the third egg had hatched. (See all three owlets in a QuickTime time-lapse movie.) There appear to have been only two owlets at 5:15 AM, and there were certainly three by 7:43 PM. Unfortunately, I can't narrow-down the time of hatching any better than that.

Mme. Owl began the post-sunset hours with a 16 minute absence. She must have returned with food, because she began feeding the owlets as soon as she arrived. She was out again later that same hour for 11 minutes. After that, she stayed-put, and her mate made at least five food deliveries, one of which was large (probably a small bird), another was definitely a large gecko, and yet another was most likely a large gecko.

Thanks to Nancy C. for the postcard!

P.S. I've fallen behind in dealing with my email once again. Bear with me. (If there were twice as many hours in the day, I could fill 'em all at this point.)

April 17 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was away only twice: once for nine minutes, then for two. In the latter case, she returned with food, which she might have received directly from her mate, or which she might have retrieved from a food cache. In addition, there were at least seven food deliveries. Some of that food she cached inside the nest box and used to feed the owlets at 8:19 AM. The rest of the day was uneventful. Shortly after susnet, Mme. Owl was away for less than a minute and returned with food for the owlets. She didn't take her usual post-sunset consitutional until twenty minutes later, and she was only away for six minutes. During those minutes, Mr. Owl arrived with food, which he attempted to present to the owlets, but failed, because male screech owls lack the instinct to tear food items into small enough pieces for the owlets to swallow (only females know to do that). He exited with the food item. Once Mme. Owl had returned to the nest, there were at least eight more food deliveries.

April 16 - During the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was away only once, for five minutes. In addition, there were at least nine food deliveries, including, at 6:32 AM, a small bird from which Mme. Owl managed to extract six feedings for the owlets over the next twelve hours. Yes, owlets; egg no. 2 hatched sometime between 5:24 AM and 1:46 PM. (There's another QuickTime time-lapse movie.) The post-sunset hours included Mme. Owl's usual constitutional shortly after sunset (9 minutes duration), and at least eight food deliveries. Two of them were large enough that she followed her mate out of the nest with them. I continue to suspect that large items are shared in these cases, but, again, caching remains a possibility. The other food items were torn apart and fed to the owlets upon receipt.

Thanks go out to Edward H. for the letter and postcards, to Cynthia B., Mailu, Marsha and Jugo for the card, to David & Lisa S. for the postcard, and, last but not least, to Pam, Zoe, Shami & Teja Z. for their postcard.

April 15 - The pre-dawn hours saw Mme. Owl receive at least two food deliveries, and leave the nest twice, for a total of 9 minutes. The day was uneventful. In the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl stood up off the eggs and began preparing for her usual constitutional at 8:13 PM. Doing so revealed that egg no. 1 had hatched sometime between then and 4:31 PM. Owlet no. 1 appeared strong during the thirteen minutes that he/she could be seen. (See a time-lapse QuickTime movie of the owlet.) Those thirteen minutes were the only period during which Mme. Owl was away; the rest of her time was solidly devoted to brooding the owlet and eggs. During that brooding, seven food deliveries were observed or inferred.

April 14 - Power was restored, and the owl cam' made operational again by 1:42 AM. In the pre-dawn hours that followed, Mme. Owl received four observed food deliveries and was out only once, for six minutes, beginning at 5:58 AM. An uneventful day followed, once again. The post-sunset hours included two absences, totalling 12 minutes. Following those were four observed food deliveries. I expect the first egg to hatch any day now, but there has been no sign of hatching so far.

April 13 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was observed to receive three food deliveries, and she was out of the nest for 51 minutes, divided amongst seven outings. The day was quiet, except for the first evening visit by a starling that I can remember, offhand. That happened at 7:24 PM, and was not repeated. In the post-sunset hours, there were no observed food deliveries, but there were five outings, totalling 44 minutes, before 9:53 PM when a passing thunderstorm that had been thrashing the area for the better part of an hour finally succeeded in cutting off power.

Thanks go out to Beth H., and Robin P. for the postcards! (Also, Birds & Blooms magazine sent a window ornament, which was nice. My best guess is that it was for contributing to the sidebar about this site which appeared in their most recent issue.)

April 12 - There was one observed food delivery during the pre-dawn hours, and Mme. Owl was out on three occasions, totalling 38 minutes. The day was quiet. The post-sunset hours were unusual due to the lack of any observed food deliveries. However, Mme. Owl was out of the nest box on seven occasions, totalling 49 minutes. I infer from these facts that her mate was bringing prey items to a nearby perch and calling her out to receive, or share, them. On the other hand, I can't rule out the possibility that there were no food deliveries at all, and that her absences represented visits to a food cache that she maintains somewhere in the area.

April 11 - There were four observed food deliveries (including one gecko), and four outings (totalling 19 minutes) during the pre-dawn hours. The day was uneventful. The post-sunset hours included three outings (totalling 23 minutes), and three observed food deliveries.

Thanks to Matt R., and Leona E. for the postcards!

April 10 - Mme. Owl received five observed food deliveries in the pre-dawn hours, and was out of the nest box on four occasions, totalling 31 minutes. At 9:23 AM, a starling stuck its head into the nest box, but that was all. After sunset, Mme. Owl took her usual constitutional, this one lasting 17 minutes. At the tail-end of that period, she missed a food delivery by her mate, although he probably found her outside soon after, because she was back on the eggs a minute later. She was out again twice more, totalling 18 minutes. In between those outings, two more food deliveries were observed.

April 9 - There were five observed food deliveries, and three outings (totalling 35 minutes), for Mme. Owl in the pre-dawn hours. There were three invasions of the nest box by starlings, at 9:19 AM, 9:24 AM, and 12:03 PM. Mme. Owl appeared hesitant to leave the eggs long enough to deal with the starling(s) properly, and settled, instead, for a few seated lunges, which seem to have done the trick. Shortly after sunset, Mme. Owl was out for her usual constitutional (12 minutes, in this case). There followed four food deliveries, and that was it as of midnight.

Thanks for postcards go out to Dana, Joan, Becky W., Pam & Richard W., Tzila D., Sandra M. M., and Sarah B.!

April 8 - The pre-dawn hours were interrupted by only one observed food delivery, and two absences by Mme. Owl, totalling just six minutes. The day was utterly uneventful. The post-sunset hours saw only one outing by Mme. Owl, her usual post-sunset constitutional, which lasted 15 minutes. There followed no fewer than fifteen food deliveries, all of which must have been small items, and nearby, too; the time between deliveries was as little as one minute in some cases. I assume he found a rich supply of insects, possibly individuals that had been killed by yesterday's freeze, and were therefore readily available in exchange for a little bit of determined scavenging.

April 7 - Temperatures started-out in the low 50s (Fahrenheit) and had dropped into the 30s by dawn. They dropped to freezing about 11:30 AM, and stayed there. Consequently, Mme. Owl hasn't been willing to leave the eggs any longer than she absolutely has to. In the pre-dawn hours, she was out of the nest twice, once for four minutes, and then six. She wouldn't even leave the eggs to chase away a starling when it entered the box shortly after noon. With the setting of the sun, Mme. Owl took her usual constitutional, but limited it to less than two minutes (just long enough to defecate and stretch her wings, I assume), and she didn't leave again. She received two observed food deliveries in the pre-dawn hours, and four in the post-sunset period.

Thanks go out to Maria R. & son, and Shirley N. for the postcards!

April 6 - In the pre-dawn hours there were six observed food deliveries, including a gecko, a moth, and two insects that may have been cockroaches. Mme. Owl was out of the nest box on three occasions, totalling 35 minutes. Her final absence straddled the dawn, which is unusual. Otherwise, the only disruption of the day came at 10:06 AM when a red-bellied woodpecker stuck its head in the box, probably hoping to find a nest site of its own. The woodpecker gave up immediately upon discovering Mme. Owl, as the red-bellies always do. After sunset, Mme. Owl was out on three occasions, totalling only 13 minutes. There were four observed food deliveries, the first of which she didn't receive (at least not while she was inside the box), because she happened to be out at the time.

April 5 - The pre-dawn hours provided Mme. Owl with at least three food deliveries. In addition, she was out of the nest box for a total of merely eight minutes, during three outings. The day was peaceful. With the arrival of sunset, Mme. Owl took her usual break, just a little later than usual at 8:13 PM. That lasted eleven minutes. She was out twice more in the next two hours, but only for a minute on both occasions. From 10 PM to midnight, there were four observed food deliveries, all small items.

By the way, sometime in the vicinity of midnight, I was out in my back yard, under the nest box tree, trying to shoot some long-exposure test photos. The whole time I was out there, I could hear Mr. Owl singing very softly to his mate from a neighbor's yard. I wonder how often he does that; just sitting nearby and serenading her (pardon my anthropomorphism).

Also, I believe I've finally caught-up on my backlog of email, so if you asked a question, and you haven't received a reply, I screwed-up. Feel free to ask again.

April 4 - Three observed food deliveries, and four absences totalling 22 minutes, mostly sums-up the pre-dawn hours. One of those food deliveries was a large enough item that Mme. Owl followed her mate out of the nest carrying it. I continue to presume that such behavior is a prelude to sharing the kill nearby. The day was utterly uneventful. The post-sunset hours, as usual, began with Mme. Owl taking a well-deserved break. She was away for 14 minutes. Twenty minutes later she was out once more, but only for three minutes. After that there were two observed food deliveries, and nothing else.

Thanks to Brenda E., Gary D., and Alison for the postcards!

April 3 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was observed to receive four food deliveries, and she was out of the nest box on five occasions, totaling 21 minutes. The day was calm, with Mme. Owl in the box the entire time. In the post-sunset hours, she took her usual break shortly after sundown, and was out twice more later on. In all, she was away for just 17 minutes. Only one food delivery was observed, at 11:43 PM.

April 2 - Mme. Owl was out of the nest for only 33 minutes, divided amongst four absences, during the pre-dawn hours. While in the nest box, she received only one observed food delivery. The day was uneventful. The post-sunset hours began with Mme. Owl taking a well-deserved 15 minute break shortly after sunset. Twenty minutes later she went out for 25 minutes, and, at 9:58 PM, she was away for four minutes. There were no observed food deliveries, which might have something to do with her 25 minute absence, or it may just mean that the deliveries were quick enough that they all happened to fall between the frames that the cam' captures and archives every 15 seconds.

Today was a banner day for postcards. Thanks go out to Theresa J., Perry G., Nancy, Betty M., Gary D., Jeane C., Jan W., and Leah W. and her Ma!

April 1 - The pre-dawn hours brought Mme. Owl six observed food deliveries, and saw her absent only twice, for a total of only seventeen minutes. At least, that's what happened in the hours up to 6:52 AM. At that point, the image capture software died again, and again failed to automatically recover. I didn't notice until 2:38 PM, at which point I not only got program running running again, but created a new version of it that seems to have corrected the issue that prevented the automatic recovery system from getting the chance to do its job.

(I've done a fair amount of work on the software in the past few weeks, and the failure of the automatic recovery system seems to be an unintended consequence of that work. The failures that give rise to the need for an automatic recovery system I lay at the feet of Apple's QuickTime for Java API. That API is a great idea, but its implementation as it relates to video capture has had issues from the get-go, in my experience. Those problems notwithstanding, I've been giving serious thought to open-sourcing my OwlCam code. Drop me a line if you'd be interested in using it.)

Anyway, the afternoon passed peacefully, and Mme. Owl went out for her usual post-sunset break from 8:06-8:20 PM. The cam' was then down again from 8:28 to 10:47 PM, this time for system maintenance unrelated to the cam'. Between 10:47 PM and midnight, one food delivery was observed, and Mme. Owl stayed-put on her eggs.

March 31 - Between midnight and 6:41 AM, there was one observed food delivery, and four absences, totalling 29 minutes. At 6:41 my image capture software failed, and then failed to automatically recover. So, no data was gathered until I noticed the problem at 11:12 AM. From then until sunset, Mme. Owl stayed in the nest box. After sundown, she went out only once, for just ten minutes. After that, there were four observed food deliveries.

P.S. I've been running behind in dealing with my email lately, but I should eventually manage to answer every message that seems to need an answer. Bear with me.

March 30 - There was one observed, pre-dawn food delivery, but four absences, the longest of which lasted eleven minutes. Mme. Owl was absent from the box just once during the day, at 11:08 AM. She wasn't gone much more than 15 seconds. If she's chasing something away, it has learned to flee soon and fast. During the post-sunset hours, there were five absences (the longest was eight minutes), and one observed food delivery which seems to have been large enough that Mme. Owl follwed her mate out of the box with it. I continue to presume that they share kills in these cases, in part because of the tug-of-war between the male and female that accompanies many of the large prey deliveries that are followed by the immediate absence of the female and the prey. While a less satisfying explanation, it is also possible that she's taking some or all of the kills away to a food cache somewhere in the area, or that she's eating them herself. The latter isn't a satisfying explanation at all because she could just as easily do that inside the nest box. So, I'm sticking with my presumption.

March 29 - There were two observed food deliveries, and five short absencesfrom the nest box (the longest was eight minutes) in the pre-dawn hours. The day was uneventful apart from two events: (1) the racket from the felling of a neighbor's tree sent Mme. Owl into the entryway in a panic around 1:30 PM to make sure that the source of all of that noise wasn't a threat to her, and (2) something that provoked her to leave the nest box for a minute at 5:28 PM. In the post-sunset hours, there were four absences (the longest was ten minutes), and three observed food deliveries, including one large enough that she left the box to share it with her mate.

Two weeks down. Six (or seven) to go.

P.S. Tell anyone who will listen that spring is the wrong time for tree trimming (let alone felling), because most every tree dwelling critter in creation is using the trees as nest sites. And just because the nests can't be seen, doesn't mean they aren't there. (Think of all the cavity dwellers like squirrels, ringtails, woodpeckers, and screech owls.) I've seen the spring flood of orphaned critters that descends on my friend Sallie, the raptor rehabilitator, every year. Believe me, this is not a small problem. Urge people to wait until summer or fall to get that tree tidying out of their systems.

March 28 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl received three observed food deliveries, including one large enough that she went outside to share it with her mate. She was also absent on five other occasions, the longest absence being fourteen minutes. During the day, her presence in the nest box was uninterrupted. In the post-sunset hours, she was absent on five occasions, including once to share a large kill outside. There were no other observed food deliveries.

Thanks to Janna S. for the postcard!

March 27 - In the pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl was absent four times, with twelve minutes being the longest absence. There were three observed food deliveries, including one that was large enough that the pair decided to share it somewhere outside the nest.

The day was quiet apart from two absences, the first from 12:27-12:31 PM, and the second, lasting less than thirty seconds, at 3:39 PM.

The post-sunset hours included four absences, the longest being nine minutes, and four observed food deliveries, including what appears to be a gecko.

March 26 - Mme. Owl was out of the nest only five times before dawn, not once for more than six minutes. In the intervening time, she received five observed food deliveries, one of which may have been a fish. If so, that's only the second fish I've seen in eight years.

Mme. Owl was out of the nest for about 30 seconds at 11:22 AM. As usual, I don't know why, but it's not out of the question that she heard a starling outside, and decided to be proactive about dealing with it.

She was out of the box four times in the post-sunset hours; three were brief absences, but at 11:23 PM she was away for nineteen minutes. Between absences, she received two observed food deliveries.

Thanks to Geoffrey B., and Leslie K. for the postcards!

March 25 - There were three food deliveries observed, along with six short absences, during the pre-dawn hours. Mme. Owl was out of the box twice during the day, once for six minutes, once for about 15 seconds. I don't know what prompted either excursion. In the post-sunset hours, there were two observed deliveries, and four short absences.

By chance, good images were obtained of three of the observed food deliveries. (One, two, and three.) I am reasonably confident that delivery two was a caterpillar. The others are more of a problem for me. The first is somewhat grub-like, but I have no idea how screech owls would be finding grubs. Or perhaps it's an unusually short, plump caterpillar. I don't know. The third delivery I can't even speculate about.

March 24 - In the pre-dawn hours, three food deliveries were observed, including a moth and a small bird. Mme. Owl followed her mate out of the nest box with the bird, and presumably shared it with him. In addition, she was out of the box for brief periods on ten occasions, some of which may have involved sharing other large prey items. During the day, the starlings poked their heads into the box early in the morning, and then gave up for the day. Mme. Owl was out of the nest box between 2:05 and 2:25 PM, and for about fifteen seconds at 2:58 PM. I have no idea why. In the post-sunset hours, there was one small food delivery observed, and six short absences from the nest box.

March 23 - Today was much the same as yesterday, except in three respects: (1) The starlings began to make real a nuisance of themselves, (2) Mme. Owl left the nest box in mid-afternoon for thirteen minutes, and (3) somewhere between 9:04 PM and midnight, she laid egg no. 4. (My best guess is 10:29 PM.)

Thanks to Dorothy G. and Janice S. for the first postcards of this season!

March 22 - Incubation of the eggs has begun in earnest, with Mme. Owl absent from the nest for a total of only two hours and fifty five minutes out of the entire day. Put another way, she spent 88% of the last twenty four hours brooding the eggs. If the weather was colder, she'd almost certainly have spent even more time incubating her clutch. Evidence of only one food delivery was captured, but it seems safe to conclude that there were others.

March 21 - Of the seven and a half pre-dawn hours, Mme. Owl spent a total of two of them in the nest box, split amongst four visits. However, for the first time this year, she spent the entire day in the nest, on the eggs. During that time egg no. 3 appeared (5:00 PM sharp, is my best guess). Of the post-sunset hours, Mme. Owl spent only 62 minutes in the box, during two visits.

We can reasonably expect one more egg, though clutches of as many as six are possible.

March 20 - Before dawn, Mme. Owl spent a total of only 90 minutes in the nest box, divided amongst five visits. She returned to the nest 16 minutes after sunrise and remained there until 3:50 PM. Then she was gone again. In the post-sunset hours, she made two visits, the first lasting just three minutes, and the second 35 minutes.

March 19 - Mme. Owl was in and out of the box more than ever today (mostly out): twice before dawn, five times during the day, and four times after sunset. Her longest stay was from 9:09 AM to 3:19 PM, during which she laid the second egg (my best guess: 10:49 AM). She's spending even less time incubating than I would usually expect at this stage. I can't help but wonder if she knows the clutch is going to be larger than usual, and that unusual steps are therefore required to constrain the hatching times. But this is purest speculation.

March 18 - Mme. Owl returned from her nightly prowl about fifteen minutes before sunrise. She spent a quiet day sometimes brooding the egg, and sometimes not. She left the nest for the evening at 8:01 PM and had not returned by midnight.

By the way, the infrared illuminators in the side camera compartment all seem to have stopped working sometime during the afternoon. It's probably just a loose connection (I'm never using that type of screw terminal again), but I can't do anything about it without bringing down the box, which I don't want to do for obvious reasons. So, for the time being, there's half as much infrared light in the box as there used to be, and it's all coming from overhead, which is less than ideal. Last year those same illuminators were cutting-out intermittently; a problem I thought I'd fixed before nesting began this year. Obviously not. Anyway, with a bit of luck the illuminators will begin working again on their own. In the meantime, the images won't be quite what they should be.

March 17 - Between midnight and dawn, Mme. Owl was only in the nest for about an hour and half. She brooded the egg throughout the morning, but spent much of the later afternoon on the perch, or watching the world go by from the safety of the entryway. At 7:57 PM, shortly before civil twilight, she set out for the night and hadn't returned as of midnight.

March 16 - Welcome to year number eight of this eastern screech owl nest box cam' (and the tenth consecutive year of nesting at this location). Today, the female spent her first day in the box. This evening, somewhere between 9:26 and 11:05 PM, she laid the first egg. (My guess is that it happened around 9:50 PM.) After the egg was laid, her mate began making food deliveries to the nest. She's not yet ready to begin incubation in earnest, however, so she can still go out and hunt for herself, as well.

There's a pair of starlings that were convinced that this was their nest, who can't be very pleased about Mme. Owl. Today, they were too worried to enter the box and challenge her, but past experience says they'll get over it, and make quite a nuisance of themselves before long.

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