We had a great day yesterday with John Lightfoot visiting to check the three owlets out. All are doing well, good weights, and as beautiful/ugly as is to be expected! All boys this year (the three last year were all girls). Another week and they may start to learn to fly.
First views of the world! 49 days old and the oldest owlet has ventured out onto the entrance to the nest box to view the wide world outside for the first time. A grainy video in the twilight but the typical wobble-head of the young owl, half fluff and half feathers, is clear to see.
The hungry heron hasn’t eaten all the fish! The little sticklebacks we put in in the spring have, surprisingly, spawned and the shallows are full of tiny little ones, each no more than a cm long but already displaying the three spines than give them their name. Long may they be small and unnoticeable to the big bird.
The growing owlets have forced the adults to move out as there is little room left in the nest box. The male appears to have gone completely but the female is now roosting in the old nest box nearby and appears in the late evening to hunt for the hungry three fur balls who are now gaining their true feathers. In only a week’s time the first will venture out of the nest box and start learning to fly!
This week we had the pleasure of the company of James Wilkes, a talented wildlife photographer who very patiently waited (I think we sat in our hides for over four hours!) for the female adult to appear, and just before it got too dark she flew over and posed for us on a post nearby.
Both adults are spending a lot more time hunting. They’re out in the afternoon now as well as evening and night and are bringing back a lot of prey for the owlets. Sometimes one of them will return within five minutes of leaving, with another unfortunate field vole.
Oxeye daisies, meadow buttercup, yellow rattle, ragged robin and a sunset
Day 30. The three fluffballs are getting bigger and there’s not much room left in the nest box for the owlets and adults. The female is now out hunting with the male at night and it won’t be long for them to start roosting elsewhere during the day. When that happens, we should be able to go in and have a closer look at the owlets.
A beautiful example of an emperor dragonfly. This female has just transformed from nymph to adult and, too weak to fly, hangs onto a rush and tries to not to be noticed.
Day 20 and the owlets are gaining their fluffy coats so soon the female won’t need to keep them warm and can go out hunting with the male. The remaining eggs look dirty and she has almost certainly given up on them.
We’ve made the decision to add a non-native species to the pond: grass carp. Originally from Asia where they are used to get rid of weeds in paddy fields and that is what we need them for here. We have the first signs of broadleaved pondweed in the pond and really do not want it to take hold as it could completely take over, as it has done in the small pond.
The fish are herbivores and won’t eat amphibia or other fish, and won’t breed either and so are a safe and hopefully effective form of weed control. So long as the herons don’t eat them.
Clearly not the lame heron that has been visiting the pond. This one seems quite happy stalking the fish (and frogs, toads and newts).
The female is struggling to control the three hatchlings and sit on the remaining eggs at the same time. The oldest is now two weeks old and all three are doing well, with the male bringing back plenty of food each night.
The three hatchlings are doing well; getting bigger, bolder and harder for the female to keep under her. The male is not interested at all!
Another egg has hatched (the last of the original three) and yet another egg has been laid; a total of seven eggs which is more than we have ever had before.
Another egg has hatched, but another egg has also been laid! Very unusual. There are now two hatchlings (both doing well) and four eggs. Three of these have only been laid recently and even if they hatch they are unlikely to survive as the chicks will be so much smaller than the older ones.
The first barn owl egg has hatched, 33 days after it it was laid, and the hatchling is doing well so far. The next egg should hopefully hatch in a couple of days. The female may even lay another egg too (but that would be unusual). We’ll keep you posted!
The male was out early this evening, an hour before dusk. He now has a growing family to feed so needs to get started early.
A day later and another egg has appeared; the eggs are hatching as more are being laid. Very odd!
One hatchling, four eggs (and five field voles!)
At last caught on camera: the fish thief! This grey heron has been visiting for a while, leaving big footprints in the mud around the pond, but today’s the first time he’s triggered the trail cam. Does seem to be limping though. Hopefully will get more footage soon with a better view.
Five greylag geece visited the pond this morning; lovely to see but the the appetite of geece can be rather destructive to fragile pond plants. They didn’t stay long, treating the pond rather like a motorway service station, and once they had their fill off they went, heading north.
A rare chance to see both barn owl faces. They don’t often look up at the camera but another bird landed noisily on top of the nest box and disturbed them.