The Harrington's Barn Owl Cam
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02/20/2018 Now it's three eggs. Also, she has formed a nest out of debris:
Nell with three eggs
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 (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.
02/17/2018 Two eggs! (Or is it three? Keep tuned.)
Two eggs!
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 sec):

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:
Dudley
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.
Nell
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.
Nell & Dudley
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.
Dudley & Nell
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):
Nell
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!
Nell
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 last night:
Bonnie
And this morning (male behind out of sight):
Bonnie
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 family.
Barm owls
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:
owl171227-1
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.
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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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