Day 84. Twelve weeks old and our work is almost done. The two owls (no longer owlets?) are occasionally returning to the nest box, but no longer constantly calling for food, so we think they are now able to hunt and feed on their own. We’ll leave the occasional dinner for them, just to make sure (and because we’ve got a whole bag of them taking up space in our freezer!), but this (blurred and grainy) photo taken at dusk may be the last.
Twenty eight days old and the two stock dove fledglings have learnt to fly, though they’re still living in the nest box.
What we hadn’t noticed was that one of the parents had returned to nest with the two fledglings. This wouldn’t normally happen (they would only return to feed them) and we have found out why: the adult, now clearly female, is sitting on a new clutch. Stock doves do lay more than one clutch each year, but it is a bit unusual to not even wait for the first to leave the nest.
You can just make out an egg under the female dove.
Day 75. The two owlets are now confident flyers, spending most of the night out and about and only coming back to the nest box when they’re hungry.
We get a good view of them at dusk as they fly silently up and down the edge of the field, practising hunting by pouncing on anything that moves on the ground (including leaves blowing in the wind). We don’t know for sure how well they are hunting so are feeding them once every third night so that they don’t starve.
It won’t be long before they naturally disperse and we probably won’t see them again.
If you’re going to eat a field mouse whole you have to get it lined up just right.
Day 71. Proof that both owlets are back. We have been hearing them both the past couple of nights but last night they visited the nest box together, looking for food. Unfortunately they didn’t come two nights ago when we left food (it got taken by magpies the next day) so left empty handed. They do need to learn to be hunting so have to go a bit hungry to encourage this. It’s a difficult balance to take: if the parents were around they would still be feeding them occasionally though much less than before the owlets could fly.
Fifteen days old and the two stock dove fledglings are almost ready to fly (but fortunately can’t leave too soon because of the high entrance to the barn owl box). They’re still growing though and the adults are busy trying to satisfy their hunger while not get trampled on at the same time.
We left some food on the ledge last night and one of the owlets came back and took it, as you can see. Not bad flying but still a little unsure of itself. But if you listen carefully (and ignore the background thumping noise) you can hear another owl in the background hissing. We think the other owlet is back too!
One of the owlets is alive! It appeared back in the nest box last night, hungry and looking for food but otherwise appearing quite healthy and clearly able to fly. It didn’t stay long and annoyingly we hadn’t left any food (having more or less given up on them).
Back from the dead.
We’re not sure whether it is the male or female, and we don’t know what has happened to the other one. We’ll put some food back in the nest box tonight in case either come back.
We took the opportunity of the empty nest box to do some work on it, move the camera and install a second one on a boom outside looking directly at the nest box. We also left some food on the ledge in case one of the owlets did come back. Then this happened.
A buzzard came and in an instant had made off with the field vole. Buzzards are known to take birds, particularly fledglings and though we will never know for sure this could explain the sudden disappearance of the two owlets.
Day 65. After the first owlet disappeared yesterday, the second left the nest box last night, despite the wet weather, and hasn’t returned since. No signs of either owlet (and we have searched and searched). There is a slim chance they have both fledged and are roosting in another tree somewhere nearby, but the weather has been dreadful (owls can’t fly in the rain) and they have only just started to learn to fly.
Fingers crossed. We will keep the nest box ready for them (and have adjusted the cameras so we will spot them if they do appear), but there is a good chance we won’t see them again.
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.
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
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.
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.