Well, I’m going to have to start updating the nest box cam’ site properly, now; Mme. Owl has laid her first egg. And the viewers get the credit for this find. I thought that I was watching the owl cam’ as I worked frantically into the wee hours on a major project at work, but I failed to notice in between all of the work that my web browser had stopped updating the page hours before. There was nothing going on in the box, because Mme. Owl was out hunting for the night, so every frame looked alike and I didn’t bother to read the timestamps. Then I checked my email and found that I had been sent a frame by a loyal viewer that clearly showed an egg, and just above that message was a notification that someone had posted a comment to the blog to the effect of “hey, there’s an egg!” Needless to say, I was a bit confused for a minute, until I realized that I needed to refresh my browser window.
So, full points to my two late night viewers.
Because I knew this night was probably my last chance to solve the problem with the ceiling illuminators in the nest box, I came home dead tired sometime after 5 AM and desperately set to work on the box. That gave me a chance to both photograph the egg, and to find a loose connection in the attic camera compartment that was almost certainly the source of the illumination problem. I finished my work on the box as the sky was just beginning to brighten, and wondered what Mme. Owl was thinking about my doings. I fully expect that she, or her mate, or both, were in the area and watching, but there wasn’t so much as a click of protest. I’m unusually confident that this is the same pair of owls that nested in the box last year, and I suppose they know me by now as the pest that comes with this nest – but a pest that never does any harm, no matter how odd its activities appear.
And so they look down upon my comings and goings with equanimity.
The egg sitting safe and secure on the shredded wood bedding of the nest box floor, just where Mme. Owl had left it before setting out on the night’s hunt. She won’t start incubation in earnest until at least the second egg, so her ignoring the egg for now and going off to hunt was to be expected.
An egg in the hand is worth ... putting back in its nest as soon as the photo shoot is over.
The egg next to a U.S. quarter dollar coin. Quarters are good sources of scale in these situations, because there’s a fair chance you have one in your pocket (at least for us locals), and they’re very nearly an inch in diameter. And, if memory serves, an inch in diameter is just about right for an eastern screech owl egg. If that’s correct, however, Mme. Owl has clearly outdone herself – this egg is a lot bigger than that, which should portend big, healthy owlets. What it says about clutch size, I can’t be sure. It takes extra resources to make a larger egg, so maybe the clutch will have to be on the small side to make up for the big eggs, or maybe the big eggs are a sign of Mme. Owl’s unusually fine health and strength, and those same qualities will permit her to lay an unusually large clutch. Only time will tell.