After a few days of poor hunting this morning there is evidence of abundance, with a spare field mouse on the floor, so the owlets have obviously fed well during the night. The fluffballs are getting bigger and there are signs of their first true feathers coming through.
The oldest hatched 25 days ago and the youngest a week later.
Yesterday evening the male barn owl came out early to start hunting, silently to and fro across the field, passing within feet of us as we sat holding our breath at the edge of the field. Soon afterwards the female flew out from the nest box and for a few moments the pair appeared to serenade each other as they flew out over the long grass, before each headed off into the distance: different directions, same intention.
The hunting appeared to go well during the night, but today the smallest owlet died, probably from being trampled by its bigger bolder siblings rather than hunger.
The three older owlets appear well, but the drizzle tonight has delayed dinner.
The rain stopped hunting early last night. The female came back empty mouthed and soaking wet, to be greeted by a noisy bundle of hungry owlets, who clamoured loudly for food that wasn’t there. The largest of the group became rather aggressive until even it got the message and they all calmed down.
The hunting needs to be better tonight, particularly as the youngest is still very small and vulnerable. Fortunately the weather forecast is good: dry, clear and calm.
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.
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).
Every hour or so the female gets up, turns around and moves back, has a good stretch then checks on her eggs before carefully sitting back down on them. Today she reveals a fifth addition to the clutch.
The male is spending most days roosting in the other nest box (about three hundred feet away) but usually flies over and joins her at some point during the day. He does tend to sit right down in the middle of the nest box taking up all the space: not sure she appreciates this!
The male joined the female earlier today and they settled down for a quiet afternoon together. It wasn’t all rest for the female though: her flight feathers needed some maintenance, the male needed to be preened (whether he liked it or not) and of course the eggs needed checking. Only then could she have a nap.