Missing in action

Day 64. It looks like we’ve lost one of the owlets. Looking more closely at the video clips from yesterday one of them didn’t come back into the nest box in the early hours of the morning, and hasn’t been seen since. No sign either up in the tree or one the ground (and we have searched and searched), not even a feather.

It’s likely it fell out of the tree, and not being able to fly properly yet would have been easy prey for a passing predator.

Such is nature. Going to make sure the remaining hootlet gets all it needs over the next few days.

The last sighting of the two owlets together

Eight weeks old

Day 63. The two owlets have spent the night outside, firstly watching the bats (perhaps for inspiration) and then climbing all over the oak tree, finally returning to the safety of the nest box at dawn. Tomorrow night might be the night for their first flight!

Here are a few video clips from the night of adventure

Daredevils

Day 62. The two owlets have both ventured out onto the ledge for the first time, despite the wind trying to blow them off.

One of the adults even made an appearance with a fat ? (mouse, vole or mole, we can’t quite make it out) for one of the owlets.

Morning

Day 61. One of the owlets having a good look around before settling down for a day of resting. They’re not rushing to learn to fly so we are going to carefully cut down on the feeding to encourage them to come out more.

Male or female hootlet? We’re not sure.

One small step…

Day 59. Just a few hours later and the owlet takes its first tentative step out on the ledge. She doesn’t go any further though: not surprising as she’s come out of the safety of the small world inside the nest box to find herself twelve feet up a tree and no parent to guide her.

Eight weeks old

Day 56. John and Wendy from the Shropshire Barn Owl Group kindly came and checked over the two owlets: weighing, measuring and ringing each of them in turn. We are very relieved to find out they are both very good weights despite the difficulties they’ve had. The oldest is a female and the youngest a male. Great advice too from two very knowledgeable owl experts, thank you so much!

The two hootlets are safely back in their nest box having passed their medical and endured a brief photo opportunity.

Two tutus?

Day 54. The pair of owlets are looking much more like adults now with their new feathers and hardly any fluff left, just a thin ring around their waists. Not long before they’ll be flying.

The remaining fluff makes them look like ballet dancers

Not orphans (but only just)

Day 50. The adult female came twice last night to bring food, not enough to sustain them but at least she hasn’t completely abandoned them. Today they have been busy shedding their fluff to reveal their new feathers, though the mixture of both does make them look a little odd.

Bad hair day?

Seven week old orphans?

Day 49. No sight of the adults for a few nights so the owlets are on their own, with only us to feed them (fortunately they’re happy to devour what we give them). The good news is they’re exhibiting typical behaviour for their age with lots of wing flapping and fluff going everywhere, revealing their new feathers. They’re preening each other too and for the first time taking an interest in the outside: the bigger one in particular looks almost ready to leap up onto the ledge.

There’s not a lot of room when they start wing-flapping!

Six and a bit week old wobbleheads

Day 45. The pair are slowly getting bigger, and are now beginning to replace their fluff with feathers and also showing how flexible their necks are as you can see here! We’re still feeding them as the adults are rarely coming back to the nest box (partly due to the recent bad weather). Defrosted day-old chick anyone?!

Five and a bit week old fluffballs

Day 41. We had to do some essential repairs to the nest box, involving briefly removing the side hatch of the nest box, so took advantage of the situation to take this photo (having distracted them with a field mouse which you can see at the feet of the owlet on the left). Box repaired and really helpful to see the owlets close up: they look healthy, though likely small (it’s hard to tell).

Now more defrosting of baby chicks, groan.

Won’t keep still

Day 41. Almost six weeks old and feeding better with our careful supplementation of their diet with a mixture of fresh field mice from the field and defrosted day-old chicks (this is recommended!): I had to go out at 2am once because I’d forgotten to defrost the horrible things. Not my favourite of jobs but the owlets are responding and getting more active and more feathers too.

Five weeks old

Day 35. The two owlets are slowly growing up and for the first day the mother has stayed away – this is normal behaviour but we’re going to keep an eye out to make sure she does come back and feed them tonight. We’re still having to supplement their diet so they’re getting used to our minimal (and very careful) contact.

Four weeks old

28 days since the first egg hatched and both remaining hootlets are doing well. A good night of hunting last night with even the dad bringing back food for the youngsters. They’re getting bigger, more boisterous and feathers getting longer.

The two hootlets wait for dad to return.

The younger hootlet isn’t ill, just trying to get some sleep!

First feathers

Day 27. The two furballs are getting bigger, and now showing the first signs of feathers underneath the fluff. Too big now for the mother to sit on and she has to endure constant attention-seeking behaviour. Hunting is still not great so we are having to carefully supplement feed them (mostly with field mice that we are catching in the field).

Watch for the mother preening her flight feathers and then one of the owlets trying to help by imitating this behaviour.

Down in one

Day 23. Better hunting by the female last night, thank goodness, so two juicy field mice for the hootlets’ breakfast. The older furball has been dominating the feeding recently so it’s good to see the younger getting a chance: here it is managing, with some difficulty, to down it in one.

5, 4, 3…

Day 22. A difficult couple of days where we lost another tiny hootlet and are now down to two. This is almost certainly down to lack of food, with neither parent bringing back enough. The dad had been absent but has now returned to join them during the day, and last night the mother brought back a big fat mole. The remaining furballs are looking healthy and active but we may need to supplement feed them so are getting advice and keeping a close eye on the situation.

Being a parent is so stressful!

Dad’s back, but empty-handed (empty-clawed, empty-beaked?)