Sunday, March 20, 2011

Today’s Chickens; Yesteryear’s Goats

Observed on my street today: A pair of chickens browsing someone’s front lawn. Not the sort of thing I see everyday. Or ever.

However, there was a Christmas day around ten years ago when I looked out of my front window and saw someone leading a herd of goats down the street. I’ve checked on subsequent Christmas days and not seen a single goat, which has been disappointing. I wouldn’t like to think that neighborhood weirdness had peaked all those years ago, with no chance of a comeback.

Today’s chickens show that there’s still a modicum of hope for this old neighborhood.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fourth Egg Laid

The fourth egg has been laid, but, due to the exceptionally poor reliability of the video capture system lately, I wasn’t able to get a picture of it. With luck, the video capture system will stay up for a while, and Mme. Owl will reveal the eggs again soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Better Look at All Three Eggs

With Mme. Owl out for a bit of hunting, a good look at all three eggs was available this morning. Next step: Reviewing the image archives to try to determine more specifically when they were laid.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Egg no. 3 Arrives Early?

Noticed just now: Egg no. 3 has arrived. Unless my memory is going, the interval between the laying of each egg in a clutch is supposed to increase over time, but I don’t think that has happened in this case. I’ll have to review frames from the nest box this weekend to try to narrow-down the time at which each egg appeared, but I think the delay between eggs no. 2 and 3 was either the same, or a bit less than, the delay between eggs no. 1 and 2. If so, Mme. Owl has pulled-off an interesting trick.

In any case, egg no. 3 has arrived, and that’s good news, no matter the timing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Egg no. 2 Appears

Egg no. 2 was laid sometime this afternoon, probably between 1 and 5:50 PM. Right now, I can’t narrow down the time better than that.

The time between eggs will increase with each egg, so some patience will be required before we know the size of this clutch. As always, stay tuned.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Egg no. 1 Debuts

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.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mme. Owl Spending Her 2nd Day in Nest Box

Mme. Owl spent all of yesterday in the nest box, which suggests that the appearance of the first egg is very near. She’s now begun spending her second consecutive day in the nest box, which suggests that that bit in the first sentence about “the first egg is very near” is correct. You can see for yourselves on the owl cam’, assuming it isn’t de-railed by one of the technical issues I’m trying to deal with.

BTW, fellow owl watchers, I brought-down the nest box last night and removed all of the nesting materials dumped there by the pair of starlings that’ve been trying to claim the box. So, today you should actually be able to see Mme. Owl. (Thanks to my raptor rehabber friend, Sallie, for supplying some spare bedding material at the last minute.)

The only bad news is that something has begun preventing the ceiling and entryway illuminators from working correctly. I did not open up the entryway assembly as part of the post-bee cleanup work (doing so requires a socket wrench, some pounding, and time), and since that contains an illuminator wired in series with the ceiling illuminators, I suspect the problem is in there. If Mme. Owl spends the night outside the nest again, I’ll see if I can fix the problem tonight.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mme. Owl May be Spending Her First Day in the Nest

Mme. Owl may be spending her first day in the nest box this year. If so, things are moving along a bit faster than I expected. The first egg, if memory serves, may appear within two days.

Mme. Owl in the nest box this morning, amid debris deposited there by a pair of starlings. So far this year, she hasn’t remained in the nest box for more than about 10 minutes at a time (although the number and duration of her nightly visits has been increasing), and she has never been in the box during daylight hours.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Owl, meet Owl Box; Owl Box, meet Owl

I haven’t brought-up my eastern screech owl nest box cam’ for the year, because nesting isn’t underway, but I’ve been running the image capture software anyway, trying to confirm my suspicion that my local owls are actually preparing to nest in my box. And, as you can see, I now have confirmation.

That’s the female owl shoving around the bedding material to create a depression to hold her eggs at some point in the future. She probably gets it more-or-less the way she likes it every night and then a pair of starlings spend the day ruining everything. Fortunately, shoving around the bedding material is quick work.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Screech Owl Nest Box: A Depression Sets In

My ability to sleep and my sleep patterns are in ruins, my local medical community notwithstanding. As an example, I just got back from 16 hours at the office. Why a sleep-deprived person can even do that, I don’t know. But for some reason I did, and there went my opportunity to keep an eye on owl TV last night in hopes of seeing a visitor.


Nonetheless, I tuned in as soon as I got home. The nest box was empty, as expected. But it had changed a little, too. It acquired, at some point in all those hours, a depression in the middle of the floor’s bedding material (AKA the pine shavings sold for lining guinea pig cages). That’s exactly the sort of depression I’d expect an interested female screech owl to make on the floor of a favored would-be nest site. (And making such a depression, by shoving around the debris on the floor of a nest cavity, is as close to nest building as screech owls ever come.)

Of course, it might have been made by some squirrel that spent the night. But given half a chance, a squirrel will bring in nest building materials, especially, if they can be found, leaf-covered twigs. In time, they’ll build quite a substantial nest that covers them completely as they sleep. But there’s not a twig or leaf in sight.

It might even have been made this morning by a very early rising, very busy starling.

But my money is on a lady owl with eggs on the way.

During all of my work to clean and repair the nest box yesterday night, the owls will undoubtably have visited the area (it’s their territory after all - they make the rounds of it repeatedly each night) and they’ll have observed some of my activities. What they thought of the situation at the time, I couldn’t say, but I’m confident that it set that little flag in their heads that says: next chance we get, we’ll have to check-out that box and see what’s happened to it. I’d guess they did that last night, and liked what they saw.

There’s no guarantee of success in this, but there is now some room for cautious optimism – about as much as’ll fit in a little bowl shaped depression around an inch and a half deep and seven inches across.