If you’ve ever wondered what happens to baby barn owls after they die in the nest box then here’s the answer. It is rather gross, but it’s real nature doing what nature does, and not letting anything go to waste.
The older owlets are rapidly gaining their warm furry white coats and are collectively now too big for the mother to keep underneath her, so she doesn’t bother to try now. It helps for the weather to be warmer too: less need to keep them warm.
Here we can just make out five owlets. The sixth may be underneath the mother but we don’t know for sure.
A noisy breakfast in the barn owl box reveals that the last egg has finally hatched and there are now six owlets, ranging from newborn to ten days old.
Now there are more mouths to feed the male is having to do a lot of hunting, but he’s rising to the challenge and this morning there are eleven tasty (to owls) small mammals on the nest box floor ready for the mother to divide up and give to the six hungry chicks.
We’re not sure how many owlets there are, four or five perhaps (we don’t think the last egg has hatched) but the older ones are clearly getting bigger and more boisterous.
Here the mother struggles to contain her clutch and one owlet pops up behind her, and promptly falls asleep on her wingtip. She doesn’t seem to mind though, as when she turns round to see what’s going on, she just lets it rest.
It’s the time of year for our dragonflies to morph from larvae to adults. Here’s the discarded cast (‘exuvia’) of the old skin, probably from a broad-bodied chaser as we have lots of those here and this cast is quite big (about two inches long).
One of our hens thinks she is a cockerel. ‘Tog’ is an old Speckledy and probably not laying anymore, so with too much time on her hands she has decided to mess around. Turn up the sound to hear why!
Update 15 June. Tog has developed a much larger redder wattle than she used to and has spurs have appeared on her legs. Signs of more than just a passing phase: she does appear to be turning into a cockerel.
We now have five tiny owlets of various ages and sizes and one remaining egg. The mother may appear to be stepping on them but she is really being very gentle trying to keep them under control as they wriggle away in all directions.
Last night the female left the nest box briefly to reveal two owlets who, intertwined start chittering loudly to each other. The female calls to them from outside the nest box but they won’t keep quiet until she comes back in and settles back down on them.
Even though the male stays away most of the time he does bring back a lot of food, as you can see from the larder on the floor of the nest box.
The first barn owl egg has hatched, just an hour or two ago. The mother is taking great care of the tiny pink owlet, chittering reassuringly to it as it chitters back. The other eggs should hatch one by one over the next few days.
The weather forecast is good and the male is doing his hunting duty. He is perhaps wisely staying away from the messy birthing business today.
A surprise extra egg arrived last night, taking the clutch to 6 (one more than we had last year) and possibly a sign that the food supply is good at the moment. However, it does mean more mouths to feed when they hatch (though they won’t all hatch and those that do won’t all survive good food supply or not, such is nature).