Great Horned Owl - heard, not seen. We have often heard what
we think was a Great Horned Owl, both directly and through the
camera audio at night. It was very distinct last night and early
this morning, and I'm sure it is indeed a Great Horned Owl. This is
bad news, because Barn Owls are a prey species of GHOs. Here's a
video with sound:
New box: On July 4, 2018 we decommissioned the old box, orignially
put up in 2007, and replaced it with a new one that I built over the
The cameras are all new with 1080p resolution, and there are many more improvements that I'll describe when time permits.
The old box was 30x15x12in. The two internal cameras are in the box at left, Cam1 (daylight) and Cam2 (IR). The external camera (Cam3) is on the boom at right. The box is supported on two 4" PVC pipes 15 feet long and fastened to the fence post with steel strap. The yellow rope (since replaced with steel cable) behind is used to raise and lower it. It goes over a branch of an oak tree and down to a hand winch attached to the fence out of sight at right. The green rope is used to steady the box when raising or lowering. The orange line is a 3-wire cable carrying power for the cameras and lighting. The cable carries 12 Vdc, 3 Vdc (variable) and ground. The 12 volts is converted to regulated 5 Vdc at 3.6 amperes (1.2 per camera) in the small box containing the internal cameras, and the 3 volts passes through and is used to power the 16 internal IR LEDs and LEDs for the external camera. The power comes from a battery in a box in the garden that is charged by a 50-watt solar panel. It is backed up by a 12-volt 10-amp power supply in the garage.
Another male checking it out.
Two more short visits by house-hunters (looky-loos?) on Dec 28 and
Jan 6. Posted two stills from Jan 6 (infrared):
After another dry spell of about six weeks, we finally had a visit
last night around 7 PM. He stayed about a minute outside, went in
and looked around for 2 minutes, and then came out and stayed
another eight minutes. Breeding season starts about now, so we're
hopeful that he come back soon with a mate. Here are two stills,
first inside, then outside (infrared):
|11/13/2108||Stranger: After a hyatus of two months with no activity, we finally had a visit last night. We feel certain that this is a first-time visitor because of the way he is acting, perhaps prospecting for a nest site since breeding season begins in the next month or two.. I'm showing the full time of his visit, about 4 minutes, outside and inside:|
Video of this morning's visit.
Inside! Dudley spent about 5 minutes exploring his new digs this
morning around 2 O'clock.
Dudley visited on Aug. 28, 29 and 30, then was absent until this
morning when he visited from about 2 am to after 5. He says, "I'm
not sure I like the new box, but it's still mine."
After another 9 days of no activity Dudley showed up last night at
7:45 and stayed about 15 minutes, again showing no interest in the
After putting up the new box on July 4, we had multiple problems
that had to be fixed, and I've lost count of the number of times we
had to lower it to fix things. The last was about 10 days ago, and
we had no visits by Dudley in that period until early this morning,
for about 10 minutes after midnight.
Morning noises - Dudley showed up just before 5 this morning and
stayed about an hour. Turn on sound for noises, I think coyotes and
our neighbor's chickens.
A knowledgeable friend tells me that she thinks Barn Owls hang
around their nest boxes in the off-season to maintain their claim.
She also agrees that our recent visitor is a male. Putting these
together, I'm inclined to assume that it's Dudley we're seeing. Here
he is coming out last night after a short visit inside:
|07/26/2018||After several days with no activity at all, we finally had a short visit by a male in the wee hours on the 24th. He came back around 1 AM on the 25th and stayed to almost 6, outside the whole time. This morning he made a short visit and actually went inside but for only a minute.|
There were a number of problems with the new box, so we brought it
down after a few days. It was a lot more work than anticipated but
finally finished, and we raised it back up yesterday. We had only
one visit overnight, about 10 minutes at 9:30 PM, outside only
(click on image for full size, click again to return):
This is reduced to fit the page from 1080P (1920x1280). The day and night internal cameras are the same, and we expect to have greatly improved images if the owls cooperate.
Our first test of the new box on July 4, the day we put it up, was
very successful with several visits inside and outside. The old box
had been down for three nights, so we worried that they might go
elsewhere, but they definitely didn't. A couple of stills
|06/30/2018||We can declare that the breeding cycle begun in January by Dudley and Nell is well and truly over as we haven't seen the young in over a week, and the adults (we assume the same but can't be sure) are acting as though they intend to start over, mating and hanging out together a lot.|
|06/25/2018||Starting over? I was hoping for a break so I could switch to the new box, but...|
Thirteen weeks - The young are supposed to go off
on their own about now. One has, but the other (Jo) is still hanging
around at night begging to be fed. The feedings are less frequent,
with just one last night, around 2:25 AM, an average-sized vole or
similar. She left with it after about a minute and returned
empty-handed (beaked?) a few minutes later and resumed begging.
Twelve weeks - We see little of Bo these days, but
Jo stays around outside the box most nights looking to be fed.
Feedings are fewer, and I couldn't find any at all in last night's
recordings. See below a 19-second recording of Jo putting her face
right up to the camera. (It is a 720P IP camera with illumination by
850-nm LEDs, which are outside the visible spectrum.)
Eleven weeks –
The routine now is one or two feedings at night in the box;
otherwise it's empty, including daytime. I'm beginning to wish the
remaining juvenile would leave so I can get on with the new box,
which is almost ready.
|06/08/2018||Empty box – We had two days in a row with only one in the box, and today it's empty. There was some activity overnight, however, with at least two feedings, one about 1:38 AM and the other soon after at 1:52 AM, both outside. There were two present at the latter (presumably Bo and Jo) when Dudley showed up with prey. We're at 78 days, or 11 weeks, and the young should go off on their own in another two weeks if not sooner. (I'm building a new box that has better cameras, better lighting, etc. It looks like it'll be ready about the right time.)|
Quick delivery –
I think it's a rabbit (14 sec):
Outside the box –
This is Jo, first time seen outside the box, about 6 AM this morning
(external camera in front).
Dancing for dinner –
Dudley is still on the job. BTW, Bo is back today after spending a
Only one today –
We have only one in the box today, presumably the younger juvenile
(“Jo”). According to Wilipedia, they should stay around another
three weeks until week 13 while being taught how to hunt by the
female. We haven't seen evidence that the mother did the job, but it
could have taken place without our knowing it because it would be out
of view of the cameras.
Delivering to an empty box -See
two videos below, first outside where Dudley brings a meal into an
empty box. After a bit one of the juveniles goes in for it. The
second shows Dudley inside waiting and the juv coming in for it.
Dudley then leaves.
Come and get it! –
Bo was outside last night about 11:00 on the camera boom when
(presumably) Dudley showed up with food. She proceeded to eat right
there, the first time we've seem them either receive food and
eat outside. It took her about 2 minutes to finish it, but the
interesting part is at the beginning.
View in full size (720P) here
Bo is now 68 days old, nearly ten
weeks, Jo a few days younger. We're worried that their parents
aren't doing their jobs well. We haven't seen mother Nell for weeks
and she's supposed to be teaching them how to hunt about now
according to Wikipedia. Father Dudley seems lax in providing food,
with only a couple of deliveries a night (but I probably miss some).
He used to make deliveries soon after dark but is not appearing
until later these days. When he does, they snatch the prey item from
him before he even gets in. Bo is flying but spends most of her time
at night outside the box, often on the external camera (which I
didn't design for but seems to be OK so far). Jo just a couple of
days ago came out, flapping a lot but not flying yet and staying
close. See this 5-second clip below from last night where Bo is on
the camera to start and Jo is inside looking out. I can't tell
exactly what happened, but I think another owl flies in to the
entrance, and Bo jumps down and confronts him (Dudley?). The third
owl then flies off. Unfortunately, the internal camera didn't come
on at that time, so I couldn't tell if Jo grabbed a food item. (Turn
Here's Bo looking out at 6:40 this morning, definitely different
from Jo seen on the 20th.
Here are two telephoto (500mm) captures taken this afternoon at a
distance of about 50 ft. with my D7200 on remote control. I
think it's Jo but not sure.
Gimme that! It appears to me that food deliveries
have been sparse over the last couple of days. Each had a meal last
night around 9:00, but I couldn't find any other deliveries until
5:07 this morning. It looks like Bo was really hungry (10 sec):
Bo is spending a lot of time outside at night but not going far as
far as I can see. Jo (younger by a few days) hasn't ventured out of the box yet. I didn't
see any food deliveries last night in the recordings, and both spent
a lot of time looking out the door. For what it's worth, that gave
me a chance to get "portraits" of them at 8 weeks: First Bo, who we're
pretty sure is female, and then Jo, probably male.
Remember that these are taken with infrared light from LEDs, which is invisible to both humans and owls.
Bo spent much of the night cavoting between the roof of the box and
the external camera. I'm posting three videos below. The first is
very short, showing her on the roof and taking off. It's hard to
see, but watch her at the end on the right where it's pretty clear
that she's taking off:
The next shows her running around on top and jumping onto the camera enclosure and back.
The last (longer) shows her eating a rat in typical manner, first tearing off and eating pieces for several minutes, and swallowing the rest whole (there's a skip toward the end, but it's clear she got it down except for the tail, which takes another while) (1:49):
Outside the box - This morning Bo came out of the
box and spent a couple of hours there, part of the time on top the
external camera. She flapped her wings a lot, but she's not quite
ready to fly.
Another of Bo:
Bo at 7 weeks (hatched Mar 21). Fully adult appearance, should fly
in around 2 weeks. Females are more heavily spotted in front
(also larger than males), and we can see a few spots on Bo's chest
here, so we'll tentatively say Bo is female.
Live prey no accident? Here are three video clips
showing live prey in the box. The first shows a fairly large rat (or
something) running around almost between the legs of one owl. The
second shows the same animal at the bottom with the owls just
staring at it. The third is the next day where Dudley brings
something in and Bo acting very strangely, I think because it's
alive and he doesn't know quite what to do about it. Was this on
purpose as a lesson?
Here are two stills of the young, who are practically adult size
now. First the pair (Bo on left) looking out the door and then Bo by
Eat your dinner! Feeding reluctant young (52 sec):
It's getting hard to tell them apart at 38 and 35 days. They have
pretty complete wing feathers but surprisingly (to me) still nothing
much but down elsewhere. They're feeding themselves now and
obviously getting plenty to eat. They should fledge in another
month. Nell roosted elsewhere today.
Nell is spending more time away from the box, which is normal at
this stage. The young spend most time when she's gone huddled
together in the far end of the box, but sometimes peak out the door.
Here they are doing that:
Panic! We had a bit of a panic yesterday because
Nell left the box at 3:40 am and didn't return until 7:54 in the
evening. Bo and Jo spent most of the day huddled together in the far
end of the box. It was quite a joyous reunion when she finally
Bo feeds herself. Another first with Bo busily feeding
himself. At around 2 minutes he attempts to swallow the critter, but it's way
Jo eats. For the first time we saw Jo eating on
this morning. She's trying to swallow something that's a bit too big
but manages to get some bites off it before turning around - about 2
taking longer breaks and starts outside stretching legs and wings.
Early this morning she hopped up onto the external camera and
stretched a foot down in front of the camera (18 sec):
Here's a screen grab of her foot and wing:
Bo at 27 days (72 sec):
|04/16/2018||Gopher rare: Dudley
showed up at 4:06 this morning with a gopher(?) that was still
kicking. You can see him worrying it in this clip but finally brings
it in (more below):
Meanwhile Nell is wondering what's going on but soon finds out. Dudley leaves and she dispatches the critter pretty quickly.
seems odd: Dudley comes in, picks up a food item, and leaves with it
feeds Bo, including a large piece. It's not clear if Bo succeeded in
images: (1) Dudley bringing something to eat at 1:21 am this
morning, and (2) Jo and Bo huddle together while Mom takes a break:
a walk and looks out at the world (infrared):
Here it is with the Day Cam showing Jo (about 19 days) also:
the kids to play - Nell left them for a while (Bo at 19 days, Jo at
16) (1 min):
brought something for the family at 12:28 this morning and did his
best to show us what it was (but I still couldn't tell). He dropped
it inside and left. Nell picked it up with Bo trying for a bite right
session: We watched Nell feeding both young in real time, and I
recorded 11 minutes manually, trimmed to 6 for posting. Nell has Bo
under her right wing and Jo under the left one and is feeding both.
video clip from early yesterday has pretty clear sound of the
last visit yesterday morning was at 6:03, about 3 minutes before the
episode with the live mouse, likely when he brought it. Here's a
clip from the external camera at that time (29 sec). (The prey
appears limp when Dudley picks it up. I have read that prey often go
limp on purpose - playing dead, in effect - when captured and try to
escape later when they get the chance.)
little of Jo, mostly because Mom stays on top (to keep them warm?)
or in front of the owlets. I did catch this still from a recording
early this morning (see also live mouse show below):
Dudley brought in food four times last night, the last with some unwelcome excitement:
a snack at 1 AM:
(hatched Mar 21) got
out from under Mom for a while around 3 PM this afternoon. This is a
long video at 1:41 but shows a lot of activity including I think
feeding around 24 seconds. Update:
Listen to sound at beginning that may be the "chittering" mentioned
still sitting on the remaining egg, or where it was because we don't
see it this morning. It could be hidden because there's a great
amount of debris that has built up. Nell moves only occasionally, so
we get few chances to see the egg or hatchlings. We're not sure
about Jo. The only good news
is that Bo is active and continues to grow, and Dudley is still bringing in food,
in fact maybe too much. See 30-second clip below of Nell picking
up a carcass and leaving with it, apparently a bit of housecleaning.
She returned withou it in about 3 minutes.
Bo getting kicked by Mom (accidently) and we still have the third
egg, which may not be viable.
clip, Bo and Jo at under a week appear to be doing well. The third egg seems to be
a short (10 sec) clip showing Bo moving around and the third egg
see more action by the first hatched ("Bo"), and I think we saw it
being fed in clip below. The second ("Jo") hasn't stirred that we've
seen but is mostly covered by Nell with the last egg still to go.
The clip from this morning shows Bo moving near the beginning and
again near the end.
is working overtime bringing in food. Also notice some motion by the
hatchling when she's on her way out for a (bathroom?) break. (We've
decided to call the little ones Bo, Jo, and Mo, so this is Bo):
this morning we could see a broken egg but couldn't find a
hatchling. Finally, about 9:00 AM we could see what we assume is
the hatchling between the two remaining eggs:
See this from Wikipedia: "The chicks are at first covered with greyish-white down and develop rapidly. Within a week they can hold their heads up and shuffle around in the nest. The female tears up the food brought by the male and distributes it to the chicks. Initially these make a "chittering" sound but this soon changes into a food-demanding "snore". By two weeks old they are already half their adult weight and look naked as the amount of down is insufficient to cover their growing bodies. By three weeks old, quills are starting to push through the skin and the chicks stand, making snoring noises with wings raised and tail stumps waggling, begging for food items which are now given whole. The male is the main provider of food until all the chicks are at least four weeks old at which time the female begins to leave the nest and starts to roost elsewhere. By the sixth week the chicks are as big as the adults but have slimmed down somewhat by the ninth week when they are fully fledged and start leaving the nest briefly themselves. They are still dependent on the parent birds until about thirteen weeks and receive training from the female in finding, and eventually catching, prey."
no hatchling. See 8-sec clip where you can see the three eggs
Day 32 and still no hatchlings. We occasionally get a glimpse of the
eggs like this:
is pretty regular about bringing in something for Nell to eat around
midnight, and he did so last night. It looked a little like Nell
had to fight him for it, but he did leave it.
surprise: Dudley is staying in today. See clip from early, but he's
he's still in at 9 am. Nell is saying, "What's up, mate?":
often accidently kicks an egg very gently when moving around. It's
usually just an inch or two, but yesterday
she pushed one egg half way across the floor, pulling it back right
away (9 sec):
brought in what looks like a vole, which he left for Nell:
|03/03/2018||All seems well at around two weeks to go to first hatching. Nell is getting plenty to eat, mostly rats (ugh) it appears. Our only worry is that she sometimes takes hours eating, leaving the eggs alone, but we can only trust her instinct on that.|
Dudley was doing his job provisioning but hadn't actually seen him
bringing something in until this morning:
And Nell is on it right away:
Here she is eating it:
to worry over the last couple of days because we didn't see Nell
eating. So we were relieved this morning to see her having a good
meal, probably a small rabbit. After tearing off pieces for quite a
while and several failed attempts to swallow what was left, she
finally succeeded. Here she is with her family-to-be (we hope):
|02/20/2018||Now it's three eggs.
Also, she has formed a nest out of debris:
|02/17/2018||Two eggs! (Or is it three? Keep tuned.)
The night cam (infrared) is working intermittently, as here.
Incubation period: Checking at All About Birds, I see the incubation period is 29-34 days, which places the first hatching at March 16-21.
We have an egg! She laid it about 1:30 PM
yesterday. If I remember correctly, the incubation period is 22
days. If correct, that will mean it should hatch around March 9.
They lay eggs a day apart, so they hatch that way. A normal brood is
up to six - if she lays that many, it'll be very crowded!
|02/15/2018||Another week and still no eggs. Nell is
eating plenty in the box every day, so it's not from lack of
nurishment. How the food gets brought in is still a mystery. Here's
a short video of her finishing up a gopher, or something:
|02/07/2018||Activity by the owls hasn't changed much
since the last report except that Nell has eaten in the box in
daytime, a good sign but a long way from what we really want to see,
namely eggs. She spent a couple of hours yesterday working on what
looks like a pretty large rat including trying to swallow it three
or four times without success. We couldn't tell where it came from,
but it was not there earlier in the day. We would hope that Dudley
brought it, but we can't tell. Here's a video with the day cam (50
In a bit of bad news, the night cam has failed, working only occasionally for short periods.
|01/27/2018||Lots of activity in the wee hours but
nothing unusual. I think this is Dudley, who left soon after,
leaving Nell in the box:
|01/26/2018||Finally doing his job: For the first time
that we've seen, Dudley brought in something for Nell to eat:
|01/25/2018||Regular day, both slept in. Dudley has left,
here's Nell looking out.
|01/23/2018||Eating in: For the first
time for this pair, one of them ate something in the box early this
morning. It took over an hour, and she (I assume it was Nell) tried
several times unsuccessfully to swallow it. Here's a sample (34 sec):
See also this short clip of them bonding around 4:30 this morning:
|01/21/2018||Another week and nothing's changed.
|01/15/2018||No report for several days because nothing new has happend - Both sleep in all day and go out at night. Nell usually returns after midnight with Dudley making occasional visits for mating and little else. He returns at sunup and they do it all over again. It seems past time that Nell should have laid eggs but no luck with that. We're still hoping...|
|01/11/2018||The sun is up, and they're both in,
preumably for the day. This is encouraging because we haven't seen
much of Dudley recently, and we feared that he wasn't going to step
up to his responsibility.
|01/10/2018||After no activity overnight, Nell came in a
bit after sinrise and stayed the day. Here she is about 4:30 PM
(DSLR at 500mm):
|01/09/2108||Continuing report for today, it's raining
for the first time this season (that normally starts in October!).
The box has a tin roof, which means it's very noisy, and clearly
Nell doesn't like it but is putting up with it. To make matters
worse, sometimes large drops fall from the trees above, making it
even louder. Anyway, she's definitely dry!
|01/09/2018||We've decided to call them Dudley and Nell. Over the past several days, Nell has been staying in the box during the day and spending only part of the night in. Dudley is making occasional visits at night for mating but little else. That's OK for now, but when she is incubating eggs and after, she'll be dependent on him to bring food. Concerning the fight video posted below, I've decided that the problem probably was that the visitor wasn't Dudley, and she wanted nothing to do with him. I have read that they are monogamous.|
|01/06/2018||After the pair occupied the box during
daylight hours for six days running, they're not in today, having
left around sunrise. The female stayed in much of the night making
the rasping call that sounds like frustration, maybe hungry and
expecting the male to show up with food. When he came in with
nothing around 1:20 am, she let him know about it (turn on sound):
|01/05/2018||Yesterday was the fifth day in a row they spent in the box, and they're both in early this morning.|
|01/04/2018||The pair spent the fourth day in a row in
the box, then followed about the same routine as before in the early
evening, coming and going. Checking videos this morning, there was
only one that was in intermittently most of the night, and I was
worried that we weren't going to see the other one from then on.
Fortunately, the second showed up near sunrise, and they're both
still in at 8:10 am as I write. Both came to the entrance to look
out for a while:
One stayed there for quite a while, and I got this not-very-good shot from about 75 feet with my DSLR and 500mm lens:
The small box at left contains the external camera with not-very-neatly-dressed wires. I expect to get better DSLR shots later, but I'm very causious about approaching too closely at this stage.
|01/03/2018||It's about 6:15am, and they're both in.
There was a lot of action overnight with coming and going, but I
didn't see any food brought in from reviewing the videos. This from
And this morning (male behind out of sight):
|01/02/2018||Both stayed in the box all day yesterday
(Jan 1), and they're both in this morning. We're hoping she will lay
eggs soon and the male gets busy with his duty of providing for the
|12/31/2017||There was a lot of activity early the next morning (12/28) with mating and rats brought it, but in the end the female left. We had varying levels of activty the next two nights, but she didn't come in for the day until this morning.|
|12/27/2017||I'm resurecting the owl blog after a long
hiatus of low activity, only occasional visits by a male who
desposited a meal in the morning before light and came back after
dark to retrieve it. The occasion today is that a pair whom we've
been seeing over the past month has apparently moved in! They came
in around 6 am, interacting a good deal (including mating). The male
left at sunrise (6:50), and the female stayed, the first time we've
had an owl in the box in daylight for two years. Here she is at
10:20 am with the day cam:
It is now about 4 PM, and she's still in, mostly sleeping. The next test will be whether the male brings food, which is his job.