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
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 u77 long and fastened to the fence post with steel strap. The yellow rope (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.
Bo feeds himself. 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:
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 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.
|02/16/2018||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!
(I apologize for the poor quality of the video. It is low resolution to begin with (640x480), and the lens is probably very dirty since it hasn't been cleaned in a year or so. It's a big deal bringing the box down for maintainance, and we certainly can't do it now.)
|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.
|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):
||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:
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:
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:
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):
|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:
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:
This shot was shortly after she came in:
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):
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.|
|03/09/2014||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
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):
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
|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.|