The Harrington's Barn Owl Cam
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12/06/2015 We've had only a couple of brief visits by Dudley since the last report, but last night he came in followed shortly after by a female. They schmoozed for a while before Dudley left.
Dudlley & friend
Here's the female, maybe the same one we saw October 5th:
female
Another still of the female, quite good looking:
female
We theorize that Dudley is bringing her around to potential nesting sites for her approval. We hope she likes our place!
Owl Box
The box is 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 ft long and fastened to the fence post with steel strap. The yellow rope 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 2.4 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 for Cam2. 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.
10/05/2015 A male (Dudley?) came at 5:52 AM.for 14 minutes, and a female came in that evening at 7:27 PM for about 5 minutes. Dudley gave the clicking call at first, a vocalization I came to associate with calling to mate:
Dudley
The female looked around as if unfamiliar with the place:
female
It doesn't seem coincidental, especially considering that we've had no visits for over a month. Here's another still capture of her showing the many spots on her front:
female
Note that all of these images are still infrared captures from Cam2, all in darkness. The subjects are illuminated with an array of IR LEDs at 940nm, which is outside the visible spectrum, at least to humans and I assume also for the owls. The camera has built-in red LEDs for night illumination, but I covered them because they show a lot of red light that I assume the owls can see as well.
08/29/2015 Dudely came in early this morning and left a small meal in the usual place (right back corner). Here he is looking out the door, about to leave:
Dudley
He came back about 8:30 PM, picked it up and left. He did that a lot in previous times.
08/25/2015 After no activity since June, Dudley showed up at 11:53 PM on the 25th and left a large prize (rabbit?):
Dudley
He then came back at 4:50 the next morning and spent about a half hour eating. He then left with what remained, probably too large to swallow as usual.
08/25/2015 Just a note about the post of 6/23 about a female visit. I had second thoughts about whether it was a female because the breast marking is more like stripes than spots that are characteristic of females. Now I don't know what to call it.
06/23/2015 Female visit! We had a female come in at 12:40 AM and stay about 50 minutes. She napped quite a bit of that time. Here's a still where we can tell she's female by the markings on front:
Unknown female
06/19/2015 After a hiatus since around May 1, Dudley showed up with a mouse about 2 AM this morning and put it in the usual place in the right back corner. Instead of leaving right away as was his habit for quite a while, he stayed about 3 hours and even consumed his meal starting around 4:30. He left a few minutes before 5.
05/14/2015 We're had a lot of spiders working in front of the outside camera (Cam3), and one completely covered the lens. We lowered the box, and I attempted to clear the sticky stuff but Cam3 is still unusable. I have ordered a replacement that should be much better, with higher resolution (720p vs VGA) and IR-cut filter (cuts in filter to remove IR duing the day to provide much better color). The existing Cam3 uses red LEDs for IR illumination that I think may bother the owls because they glow red in the visible spectrum. I'm going to cover them on the new camera and use IR LEDs at 940 nm that are invisible to the eye (similar to the setup for the internal IR camera, Cam2).
05/14/2015 Sorry for the long gap. We haven't seen the female since the last posting on Jan 10, and Dudley only infrequently, usually to leave a meal in the morning before light and returning to retrieve it after dark. The last time was a couple of weeks ago and to our surprise when he came for it his meal had disappeared. The camera should have been triggered but wasn't. We haven't seen Dudley since - he's probably pretty ticked at having his lunch stolen!
01/10/2015 Dudley came in shortly after midnight, and the female, whom we've decided to call "Nell," shortly after. They were in about an hour and a half without much happening until about 1:45 when they mated and then left right after. Here they are, Nell on the left (Cam3):
01/09/2015
Dudley made two solo visits, both only about 8 minutes, one after midnight and the other after 5 AM.
01/04/2015 We had a breakthrough on Jan 4: a female joined him, and there was a lot of mutual grooming and they mated three times. She came in but spent most of the time outside, causing us to wonder whether she really accepts the box for the season. Here they are inside (Cam2):
11/27/2014 A lot has happened since my last post on Oct. 18, and I will summarize briefly to bring things up to date. Dudley continued to make occasional visits, usually separated by 10 days or so. Several times he brought in a meal just before light in the morning and returning after dark to eat. He had a large meal for Thanksgiving on Nov 27, consuming a large rat that he finally, with quite some effort, to swallow whole.
10/18/2014 Throughout the summer we had only occasional visits by the male first seen in May. We decided to call him Dudley. We undertook a major renovation around Oct 1 of the mounting box for the two cameras (one for day, the other for night), putting both in the same box. I also added an external camera, Cam3, on a boom so we could see the owls come and go. The box was down about 10 days for this work, so we were afraid that we wouldn't see any for some time, but a female that we dubbed "Big Mama" because of her large size showed up on Oct 10 at night:
Big Mama female
We also had a visit by a male on the 16th and again on the 17th that we think is probably a first-time visitor because he explored the box as if he hadn't seen it before. His visits afforded our first chance to see images from the external camera:
cam-ex view
For this camera I'm using the built-in IR LEDs for illumination, but you can see that he is lit by the internal LEDs as well. (The internal lighting is a little too strong in this shot, and I turned it down later. This capability is available only for the internal IR LEDs.) Here is a still capture by the internal camera (Cam2) a little later:
Cam 2 still
We are theorizing (and hoping) that the owls are prospecting for dens in anticipation of the breeding season that begins in our area around December. I don't plan to do anything else to the box for the next several months.
05/29/2014 After no action for over a week, the male came in last night at 10:35 and stayed an hour and 20 min., mostly staying up close to the camera and frequently looking out the entrance. We're hoping he considers it his "home" and that a female joins him soon. Two stills (Cam2 IR):
Barn Owl "Dudley"
Barn Owl "Dudley"
05/20/2014 The male seen on the 9th visited for about an hour around 9 PM, both on the 19th and the 20th. We're sure it's the same as seen on the 9th. He was clearly more comfortable, spending time grooming and napping.
05/09/2014 We had a visit by a male we hadn't seen before early on the 3rd. It was very nervous, looking all around and staying only about a minute. What appeared to be the same one visited again on the 6th about 9:30 PM also staying only a minute. Here's a still capture of him on the 6th:
Barn Owl
He's a fine-looking owl indeed, and we're hoping he's a suitor for Natasha. We've had no activity since this event on the 6th. (Note the greatly improved quality of this image from Cam2. My work on improving the IR lighting made a very big difference.)
05/02/2014  The box remained empty all day on May 1, but an owl showed up about midnight and stayed until about 1 am today. We're delighted, to say the least.
We're convinced that it is Natasha because we've seen first-time visitors, and they show signs of being very nervous and look around at everything, including frequent looking out the entrance. Our visitor this morning did none of that but settled in as if she owned the place. She called with the "klek-klek" call for the first minute or so. From having heard that many times before, I'm sure it is calling for mate. Whether it was just a forlorn call for Boris or a hopefull call for a new mate we can't say. Whichever, she spent the rest of the time grooming, which is perfectly normal. This capture is from about 1 am shortly before she left:
Natasha
This shot was shortly after she came in:
Natasha
Both shots show a great improvement in quality for Cam2, perhaps as good as can be done for IR within the limitations of the resolution, etc., of the camera.
4/30/1014 I was dissatisfied with the IR lighting, and so we lowered the box again on April 3, and it remained down until we finally raised it again on April 30. The modifications this time took the entire month, mainly waiting for parts. The main thing I did was to install new IR lighting in the form of 16 IR LEDs in two "light bars" with pieces of acrylic as difusers. I also provided wiring so I can control the current to the LEDs to adjust the IR intensity from the garage. This photo is looking in from the top with box on it side and top propped open:

The light bars are on the same wall as the cameras, of which you can see the lenses at bottom (Cam1) and middle (Cam2). The tape on the wall around Cam2 covers holes for the red LEDs that are part of Cam2 and proved unsatisfactory for IR lighting. The wall are right is the bottom of the box that was covered with various forms of offal that I cleaned out. You can see the window I provided to the right of the cameras for daylight lighting. (When the box is up, the window is below the cameras.) It is covered with a piece of window screen. The entrance is at bottom in the picture.
04/02/2014 Natasha left sometime last night and didn't come in this morning, so I decided to take the opportuninty to lower the box for some modifications. We brought it down about 9 am and raised it back up around 1:30 PM. The changes I made were to move Cam2 up a couple of inches, add a window below Cam2 to improve lighting and air circulation, and add a small board to block the direct light on Cam1 coming in from the entrance. I also cleaned up the box and painted the walls light gray to provide a better backgound for the cameras. Here are snapshots of the empty box after the mods (Cam1 first):
Owl Box Cam1
Owl Box Cam2
I did not attempt to salvage the eggs Natasha had abandoned a few days ago and buried them at the site. Lighting appears to be greatly improved, but the real test will be what it looks like with owls in the box.
It takes two people to lower and raise the box, one to operate a hand winch attached to the fence and the other to guide it with a rope. Mary Ellen handled the winch, and I took the guiding rope. That can be done with one hand, and I used the other to take some pictures with my P&S. Here are two during the raising, first when it was about half way up (the yellow rope is attached to the winch and the green one is the guiding rope):

It is in final position here ready to be fastened to the fence post:

It is always a risk in lowering the box that the owls will be traumatized and not come back for a while, so we'll be anxious the next few days looking for her. It seems unlikely that Boris will be seen again, and we're hoping Natasha can find a new mate. There's no telling how long that could take.
04/01/2014 Natasha came back for a while later in the day yesterday and visited a short time around 3 am this morning. She came in before light and appears to be settled in for the day. However, she's ignoring the eggs. We're sure the reason for her behavior is Boris's absence as she knows she can't raise a family without his help. It's a great disappointment.
03/31/2014 Bad news: Natasha left the box at 7:25 am and didn't return until around noon, staying only an hour. She didn't sit on the eggs, and it appears she has given up. I'm pretty sure that the reason is that Boris hasn't been bringing food recently. Checking clips from the past week, I don't see Boris at all, and there hasn't been food for Natasha. We're afraid something has happened to Boris.
03/30/2014 Natasha has been very faithful in sitting the eggs, and we're looking for the first hatchling in about a week. We had a scare yesterday when a dozen or so bees buzzed in and around the box, sticking around for about an hour. They apparently were scouts looking for a place for a new hive, and we're nervous now to see if the swarm comes back. It's been about 20 hours so we're hopeful they won't.
03/15/2014 We now have 5 eggs, just noticed today.
03/11/2014 Egg #4!
03/09/2014 Natasha laid a third egg this morning aroung 9 am. She is still sitting on the eggs dutifully.
03/08/2014 Natasha finally laid a second egg on March 6 and has been sitting on it and the first egg in a more dedicated fashion than she did with her first. She's sitting on both, but we don't think there's any chance that the first will hatch. According to Allaboutbirds.org, the incubation period is 29 to 34 days, so the second egg should hatch around April 5 to 9 if she stays on it. Their habit is to lay at 1-3 day intervals, from 2 to 18(!) eggs.
02/25/2014 Natasha sat on the egg but without much dedication for about 5 days then abandoned it. The egg has just been sitting there since. It seems to have stimulated Boris, however, who has been bringing in food on a regular basis, sometimes much more than Natasha can eat. In fact, on some occasions Natasha has picked up carcasses and left with them, coming back without them. She has spent every day in the box since sometime in January; Boris joined her for the day just once a few days ago. There's a lot of coming and going at night and none during the day, possibly because our neighborhood is overrun with crows that would undoubtedly attack the owls if seen. They've been mating frequently, and her eggs should be well fertilized. We're still hoping they'll produce a family.  
02/08/2014 We have an egg! Natasha laid it sometime this morning.


Now the onus is on Boris to bring in food for her and later the family.
 
02/03/2014 For about the last two weeks, Natasha has spent all day from just before sunrise to sunset in the box. Neither has come or gone in daylight, but Boris comes in fairly often at night, usually for mating after which he leaves immediately. For a while he brought food (usually voles, I think) but none seen now for a few days. Here's Natasha with the largest I've seen, possibly a gopher (Jan 30):
Natasha with meal
It seems that all is ready for her to begin laying.
 
12/23/2013 We've been having visits almost every night, any time between sunset and sunrise and often with both Natasha and Boris. It's been weeks since we've seen any during daylight, but one came in about 6:15 this morning, and it looks like she (I assume) is staying. Based on previous experience, she'll stay all day until after dark.  
12/14/2013 They mated yesterday afternoon around 5:30 and again this morning around 2:30. See YouTube of this morning's here.  
12/13/2013 One owl came in at 6:14 this morning, not sure which. Judging from past experience, he or she will stay until dark, mostly sleeping. See still captures here:
Cam1 (color): http://robert-harrington.com/owl1.htm
Cam2 (IR): http://robert-harrington.com/owl2.htm
 
12/12/2013 The only activity yesterday and today was visits in the wee hours around 2 to 3 am.

See a YouTube video from this morning triggered by the motion alarm on Cam2 (IR) here.
 
12/10/2013 The owls have been much more active recently, spending a lot more time in the box, especially Natasha. Yesterday around 5:30 PM, they mated for the first time that I've seen since last Spring. Another encouraging sign is that she appears to have bulked up, something I read that the females do in preparation for breeding. See this still capture from Dec 8 where Natasha is on the right:
Owls12/8/13

 
12/10/2013 I had to shut down the video from this page because the camera as server was overloaded to the point that the frame rate was less than 1 frame/sec. If the owls begin to raise young, I will look into means to broadcast video to a wider audience. In the meantime, I will use this page for status reports. For single frame access go to http://robert-harrington.com/owl2.htm.  

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