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Chris’ Eastern Screech Owl Nest Box Cam’ 2014

Established 2000

The 2014 eastern screech owl (Megascops asio, formerly Otus asio) nesting season has concluded in this urban Austin, Texas, nest box. An exceptional clutch of five eggs was laid, all five hatched and eventually successfully exited the next box.

The views shown here were provided by one or more tiny monochrome video cameras that are sensitive to both visible and near-infrared light. During the day, the cameras "see" using the daylight that streams in through the entrance hole. At night, arrays of infrared illuminators take over from the sun. (Meet the nest box internals.)

Daily Image Archive
February 2014
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28
March 2014
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31
April 2014
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
May 2014
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

These daily slideshows can be controlled from the keyboard, not just the on-screen buttons. The left and right arrows move through the images one at a time. The up and down arrows cause the images to advance automatically; the more you press those arrows, the faster or slower the show goes. The spacebar will pause or resume a slideshow. Don’t have arrow keys? Use the W, A, S and D keys, instead.

Tweets by @ChrisOwlCam
Owlet Egg Laid Egg State Hatched Nestling State Branched
Mean Time Error Mean Duration Error Mean Time Error Mean Duration Error Mean Time Error Local Sunset
2014-1 2014-02-26 09:38:01 AM CST ±308 min. 33d 22h 36m ±190 min. 2014-04-01 08:14:19 AM CDT ±72 min. 29d 22h 04m ±36 min. 2014-04-30 08:37:17 PM CDT ±0 min. 8:09 PM CDT
2014-2 2014-02-28 09:11:33 PM CST ±24 min. 31d 18h 09m ±12.7 min. 2014-04-01 03:20:38 PM CDT ±1.4 min. 30d 05h 23m ±1 min. 2014-05-01 08:44:01 PM CDT ±0 min. 8:10 PM CDT
2014-3 2014-03-03 08:15:37 PM CST ±36 min. 28d 23h 45m ±18 min. 2014-04-01 08:00:31 PM CDT ±0 min. 31d 00h 36m ±0 min. 2014-05-02 08:36:31 PM CDT ±0 min. 8:11 PM CDT
2014-4 2014-03-06 09:00:04 AM CST ±149 min. 27d 03h 14m ±75 min. 2014-04-02 12:14:02 PM CDT ±0 min. 30d 15h 28m ±0 min. 2014-05-03 03:42:31 AM CDT ±0 min. 8:11 PM CDT
2014-5 2014-03-09 10:21:28 AM CDT ±183 min. 25d 20h 28m ±110 min. 2014-04-04 06:49:17 AM CDT ±37 min. 32d 14h 42m ±19 min. 2014-05-06 09:31:16 PM CDT ±0 min. 8:13 PM CDT

—[ Weather / More Weather | Sunrise & Sunset | Moonrise & Moonset ]—

Editorial – I’m fascinated to learn, from The Des Moines Register via USA Today, that a fellow named Bob Anderson, who put a bald eagle cam’ on the ’net back in 2008, was responsible for starting the practice of putting nest cams on the Internet. The eight years I’d been operating this cam’ (and some of you were watching it) before 2008, somehow don’t count, either due to a startling ignorance and/or ego on the part of Bob Anderson, or standard journalistic quality controls (roughly none) at The Des Moines Register.

(How many times have you read an article in any newspaper or magazine on a subject in which you are highly knowledgable and not found cringe-worthy mistakes, omissions, etc.? That's what I mean by “standard journalistic quality controls.” That being the case, it seems more likely that The Des Moines Register is to blame than Mr. Anderson, but who knows?)

Seriously, this isn’t a tough issue to to sort out: just email the person, V. Dziadosz, who created and has maintained the worldwide list of nest cams since 1998, or lookup that site on the Internet Archive (bearing in mind that the site was at a different location prior to 2012), and the absurd claim of hatching the idea of nest cams in 2008 falls apart – and someone has some serious apologizing to do.

May 6 – Owlet no. 5 left the nest successfully. (More complete update to come.)

May 4 – Owlet no. 5 stayed put. In as much as it is slightly more than three days younger than no. 4, I think it made the right choice; let those wing feathers grow a bit more before trying to take to the skies, even if it that only means jump-flapping between tree branches.

Meanwhile, one person shared with me their letter to the author of that article about nest cams in The Des Moines Register, and the author’s response. I found the response rude, and the rebuttal offered by the author to be flatly contradicted by his own unambiguous statements in the article. So, I find him impressive, but in all the wrong ways.

May 3 – Owlet no. 4 left the nest at 3:42 AM (on the same night owlet no. 3 left the nest, just on a different side of midnight). Neither 3 nor 4 made the remarkable flights to the hackberry trees at the back of my yard that nos. 1 and 2 did. Instead, they headed off to the side, first into a crepe myrtle tree that abuts the nest box tree, and from there through two of my neighbor's trees (in the latter of which they spent the day to the consternation of many of the local songbirds). After sunset, their dual food begging from that tree made their location clear.

Owlets 1 and 2 remain, presumably, in the hackberries and adjoining trees, since those provide much better cover and far more scope for movement. (Also, every year's owlets end-up in those hackberries, probably for the aforementioned reasons.)

Owlet no. 4’s exit left no. 5 alone in the nest box. Rather than encouraging no. 5 to leave the nestbox, Mme. Owl seems to have gone to extra lengths to look after him/her in the nest, delivering a mouse that night, and visiting the nest box on three occasions during the day. (Which is probably the reason that the local songbirds were aware of the location of nos. 3 and 4; Mme. Owl was probably roosting with them in between her visits to the nest box. If so, her mate would have been roosting with nos. 1 and 2.)

Postcards: Thanks go out to Betsy, Nancy & Sandra, and KimMarie.

April 30 – The first owlet left the nest this evening at 8:37 PM CDT. After walking to the far end of the owlet rail, it leapt a short distance to a nearly vertical limb of the tree, climbed to its broken top, where one of its parents watched from a small, remaining branch, then jump-flapped its way across to a taller limb that leans into the back yard. The owlet climbed to the broken top of that limb (even higher than the top of the first limb to which it climbed), and, with hardly a pause to consider the situation, leapt into the air, targeting a short tree growing beneath one of the hackberries at the back of the yard. It must have covered fifty feet in that flight, and it lost altitude the whole way since its feathers aren’t yet sufficiently developed to let it generate net lift, but the flight was a success. Both adults observed the whole thing from the hackberry that overshadowed the little tree, but there was nothing they could, or needed to, do to help. It just worked splendidly.

I’ve been wondering for years how the owlets cross the gap from the nest box tree to the hackberries at the back of the yard, where they always end-up. I think I have my answer. The only part I haven’t seen is the transfer from the small tree to the hackberry, but that should be a simple matter of climbing and a bit of jump-flapping; trivial compared to the feat it had already pulled-off.

Returning to yesterday’s activities, I haven’t gone through all of the stills taken on the 29th in order to find the best possible owlet group portrait, but I have looked at the movies I shot, and links to them are included below. The portrait will look a lot like what you see in the movies: two cooperative owlets, two lumplets, and one preoccupied with hatching a plot for world domination. Every owl has its own personality, but I was surprised that three of them were so consistently reserved, which hasn’t been an issue in past years.

First of two owlet movies for 2014.
The first owlet movie from the 29th.
(MPEG-4, 1080p, 12:12, 198 MB)

Second of two owlet movies for 2014.
The second owlet movie from the 29th.
(MPEG-4, 1080p, 12:28, 212 MB)

BTW, you can see me attacked by one of the adult owls in one of these movies. That would be really interesting, if “visible,” in this case, meant more than a blur passing through six frames (1/5th of a second). Anyway, as my increasingly free-form hair style suggests, I was attacked a number of times during this process (all strikes to the head; hence the hair issue). And, of course, I deserved the attacks and all the pricks of owlet talons in my hands; it’s the price one pays for interacting with this type of wildlife, and it’s a bargain as far as I’m concerned.

One little event that fascinated me: After the owlets had been returned to the nest, the sun had set, and I’d nearly finished cleaning-up after this process, one of the adults chose to perch where the owlets had been photographed. It watched me as I finished the cleanup without a trace of concern (or obvious interest), something it could more readily have done from any of the surrounding trees. The adults don’t normally perch so close to the ground (safety is up in the trees), so I can’t help but wonder if it had a specific reason for wanting to be on that perch, something like experiencing a childhood memory of sitting on that same perch for the camera. Basic curiosity is a simpler explanation, but, for whatever reason, that’s not how it struck me at the time.

Make of that what you will.

Postcards, Email, and Reference Material

If you are enjoying the Eastern Screech Owl Nest Box Cam' this season, please send a picture postcard, ideally depicting where you live. My address (new as of April 4, 2013) is: Chris W. Johnson, P.O. Box 302042, Austin, TX 78703, USA. If you have questions or comments, continue to send email.

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