Three or four?

By now we may only have three barn owlets. It looks like the mother has rejected the smallest. Not unusual to do this if there isn’t enough food but nature can appear to be cruel at times.

Update: looks like the fourth owlet is OK. A few minutes later the mother turned round and carefully pulled it back under her with her beak.

Feeding time

The mother is busy feeding the four wriggling chicks: see how she is able to control them while holding a field vole (probably) down as she pulls it apart to feed each of them in turn, while having time to have some herself too.

Here’s a longer version of the video.

Owlets

The first egg has hatched and there’s a little pink wriggly thing under the mother.

Even before the egg was hatched the owlet and mother were talking to each. Here you can hear them chittering away the night before: when the mother moves you can see the cracked egg on the right!

Update 28 May. Now there are two owlets, clear to see as the mother briefly left the nest.

Update 29 May. Now there are two owlets. Not sure where the adult male is today. There is spare food on the floor of the nest box so the family aren’t going hungry.

Sootballs

A pair of moorhens have secretly made a nest and we now have seven (or eight) little ‘sootballs’ on the pond.

The male is on the bank on the left and the female in the reeds on the right.

Definitely eight!

Covered in black fluff and quite vulnerable to predators

Eggs

The female’s sitting down a lot.

She appears quit content

Tada! This is why.

One egg

Over the next few days more appear.

Two eggs
Three eggs
Five eggs
Six eggs
Seven eggs

That should be all. It’s more than we normally have and they probably won’t all hatch, and the ones that do certainly won’t all survive.

New owls

Last month a lone female took a liking to the new owl box and quickly settled in. Not long after, she started bringing a fella back and they are now officially a couple. No signs of eggs yet but it shouldn’t be long.

Two new barn owls: male on the left and female on the right

19 March 2023. Having set up a third camera on the ledge we’ve managed to work out the leg ring numbers on each owl. The male is a young barn owl, hatched last year at a site five miles from here, and the female much older, almost five years old and has come from a site about nine miles away.

Part of one leg ring (upside down but legible)
One owl posing for a leg ring photo in front of the camera.

Valentine’s Day

And the frogs and toads are gathering. The toads have appeared first, in great numbers, as they head towards the pond. Some can’t wait until they get there.

Two common toads can’t wait until they get to the water.
Lots of frog spawn in the small pond, 19 February 2024.
Common toads and strings of newly-laid toad spawn, 20 February 2024.
Two common toads and a smooth newt, 20 February 2024.

A gang of male common frogs writhing around a lone female (somewhere in the middle).

New house

We’ve taken advantage of the nest box being empty over the winter to replace it with a new one, and have updated the cameras too. Now we wait…

We didn’t have to wait long, two owl pellets appeared overnight: proof of an owl visiting to check out the new accommodation, which must smell strange to them as it’s so new.

Two common toads and a smooth newt, 20 February 2024.

First flight

This evening the younger owlet found enough courage to leap off the nest box ledge for the first time, though rather inelegantly flew straight into a bush. She made a good recovery though and has now flown off to shelter from the rain in a nearby oak tree.

The black spots on their chests show that they’re female.

All alone

The older owlet has already learnt to fly and last night spent most of her time away from the nest box, leaving her younger sister alone to sit on the ledge in the early morning light, before going for a solitary daytime sleep.

The black spots on their chests show that they’re female.

Hungry

Out in the early morning rain the two owlets wait without success for food. We haven’t seen the adult female for weeks and the adult male doesn’t always appear often and certainly not when it’s raining. So we feed the hungry wobble-heads until they can fend for themselves.

The black spots on their chests show that they’re female.