The owl isn’t ill!

The new owl has settled in for the day and has time to bring up an owl ‘pellet’. This is perfectly normal behaviour: it’s the undigestible remains of its last meal (such as a field vole or mouse). If the owl stays, within a few weeks the bottom of the nest box will disappear under a thick layer of these pellets. Lovely!

New or old?

After a few weeks of an empty nest we had a visitor last night. Though a brief appearance, it was long enough to not only see the tag on the owl’s leg but also read its number, so hopefully we’ll know whether it is one of our previous owls or a new one. If it is new we’ll find out where it’s come from!

Two days later and another owl appears in the nest box. This one also ringed on the same leg but the number is different. Unfortunately we can’t read the whole number so won’t be able to tell where it’s come from.

Different leg ring = different owl

Winter resident

After a few weeks of no cameras in the nest box (thanks to something nibbling the cables up in the tree) we have fixed the technical issues and now have a good view of the inside of the nest box, where the new barn owl is settling in for the winter. She (see the black dots on her front) isn’t ringed and doesn’t look like our previous owls, so is likely new to the area.

We have a visitor!

The black blob on the bottom of the nest box is a fresh barn owl pellet and the first sign that an owl is around and might be interested in settling in.

A search back through the nest box camera’s saved clips reveals all. The barn owl has been visiting for a couple of days and even rested all day on Friday. We don’t know if it’s male or female, or if it is one of the adults from this year (it is unlikely to be any of the fledglings). We can’t see if it is ringed yet either. Will let you know more when we do.

Almost exactly to the day a barn owl starts to visit the nest box. It was 1 October when we first spotted one last year

And then there were none

The youngest owlet has finally dispersed and the nest box is now empty. It’s been a successful year and there are now three new barn owls somewhere out there in the Shropshire countryside. This brings our total owls bred to 11 since we started in 2018.

The nest box shouldn’t be empty for long, but hopefully we have enough time to clean it out and make any repairs needed before another (or possibly the same) couple of barn owls settle in.

Three great tits take an interest in the empty nest box.

And then there was one

The owlets have spent the past few days gaining their independence and the older two have now left the nestbox and dispersed, to who knows where, as they do at this age. The youngest is still here and still being fed by the adult female, but it won’t be long before he too will fly off into the distance.

The owlets at twelve weeks old

Three learner pilots

All three owlets are now learning to fly. The oldest is 9 weeks old and as a result the most competent, but as you can see, all three need a little more training. The adult female is still visiting at night to provide food but she will be coming back less often as she lets the youngsters fend for themselves.

Update 7 July. The barn owlets are well on their way to being independent. Their flying skills have improved and they’re now learing to hunt on their own too. It won’t be long before they will disperse and each settle up somewhere else. It will be a shame to see them go but that’s what they do.

Two learner pilots

The two older owlets are spending the nights learning how to leap from branch to branch. They don’t always get on though, as you can see! The youngest isn’t coming out of the nest box yet, but it won’t be long before all three of them are out learning to fly.

The adult female is still coming back to feed them but will likely reduce her visits in order to encourage the youngsters to learn how to fend for themselves.

Three boys

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.

Day 44

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.

Day 44

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!

Daytime hunting

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.

Running out of room

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.

Chitter chatter

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.

Getting bigger

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.

2 hatchlings, 4 eggs

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.