We have owlets!!!!

It has been torture… to watch ‘my’ owlets hatch on a low res feed from Yew View. I was desperate to get on site to take a look at all the footage… and infect, I spent most of the day looking through 5 days of footage!

The eggs  were laid on the 23rd, 25th, 28th Feb and the last on the 3rd March. She started incubating seriously between the 2nd and 3rd egg. They started hatching on the 28th, followed by two on the 29th (early in the morning, then sometime later in the day.) The fourth has not hatched…. and won’t now. I’m quite pleased actually, as this last owlet would have been so much smaller, it would have had little chance of survival. These three owlets are pretty much equal in size so can compete equally for food.

This was the first good glimpse I had of an owlet on the 29th March…

By the 29th, all three had hatched and I captured this clip..

They are covered in a soft, white down and their eyes are closed. They beaks look like they are made from pewter and you can see the ‘egg tooth’ on the end. This is a small point that is used to help them to chip their way out of the egg. It is gradually reabsorbed, but clearly visible for the first few days.

The female rips the prey into tiny portions and then gently offers them to the owlets, brushing them back and forth infant of their beaks until they feel the food. Listen to her vocalisations… she calls to them a lot and they respond with clicks and cheeps. This helps to form a bond between them. She is so tender with them and I feel totally privileged to be able to film this interaction.

The female remains with her young all the time, leaving only briefly , usually just after dusk and again at dawn. She is rarely gone for more than 10 minutes and must go to relieve herself, have a drink and sometimes bathe. When feeding the owlets, she gets quite messy as the prey hangs down on her chest below her beak. In the short periods that she leaves them, I get my first glimpse of the chicks and their relative sizes…

It is the feeding sequences that I am most captivated by. Just look at how she presents the morsels to the chicks. It amazes me how quickly they start to eat quite large pieces and the way that she watches them attempt to eat the food. Her eyesight is not good close-up and, if she drops food, you will see her use the long hair-like feathers near her beak, to ‘feel’ for food on the ground.

The male is bringing in food regularly; mainly wood mice along with a couple of voles and worms this week. Sometimes he calls to her and she goes out to collect the food. When she returns, it is difficult to land inside the box without landing on the owlets, yet this box is much larger than a lot of tawny boxes.

The base is 50cm x 50cm. When you watch these interactions and, as the owlets grow, you watch them move around, it makes me believe that the tunnel type nest boxes must be incredibly uncomfortable and cramped. In this box, the female can sit without being cramped at all. In the tunnel type ones, her tail will be pressed upright on the sides of the box and the owlets must be really squashed in the base. Personally, I would not use a tunnel type box, but would always go for one more these dimensions.

More often than not, the male delivers the food to the box. He either dangles it down to her, or drops briefly into the box to pass it over.

WARNING: These scenes are quite graphic and possibly not for the faint hearted!

y April 1st, the owlets were looking strong and healthy!

At 4 days old, their eyes are just beginning to open. They are getting stronger and can hold their body up. They are less wobbly and becoming more vocal. They are eating larger pieces of food and starting to jostle for position. What a difference in just a few days!

For me, after all the planning, experimenting and fiddling with camera angles, lighting and focus, these are when it is all worthwhile! I am absolutely thrilled with the images I am getting from this camera angle. I focused this camera a little closer than the one at 90 degrees to it. The other camera is focused more toward the back of the box, where I predicted she would lay (as she has for the last two years) This year, she came more into the centre of the box, so the second camera angle is not quite achieving what I had hoped for, but will be fine once the owlets are larger and not so static in their position.

The male has not been hanging around outside with prey, but flying straight in, so I have not had many clips from outside the box. I did capture this nice one of the female having a little time outside before flying off for a brief break. It must be good to get out of there for a wing stretch and some fresh air! She has been in there almost 24-7 for nearly 5 weeks now!

I have lifted lots of stills from this footage and most of these will appear on my Flickr account, which is linked to the NestEnders page of my website. To keep up with all the news from all my nest box cameras, this is a good page to go to as all the Youtube videos and the stills are embedded into these pages. You can access it by clicking on the link below and then clicking on the NESTENDERS tab

As you can imagine, it takes me a while to look through, lift footage, process it , upload it and then publish it, so I may be a few days behind, depending on my other work commitments. It does take over my life somewhat at this time of year!

Here are a few stills and the rest should appear on my website by the weekend. I hope you enjoy the footage as much as I do !