Not orphans (but only just)

Day 50. The adult female came twice last night to bring food, not enough to sustain them but at least she hasn’t completely abandoned them. Today they have been busy shedding their fluff to reveal their new feathers, though the mixture of both does make them look a little odd.

Bad hair day?

Seven week old orphans?

Day 49. No sight of the adults for a few nights so the owlets are on their own, with only us to feed them (fortunately they’re happy to devour what we give them). The good news is they’re exhibiting typical behaviour for their age with lots of wing flapping and fluff going everywhere, revealing their new feathers. They’re preening each other too and for the first time taking an interest in the outside: the bigger one in particular looks almost ready to leap up onto the ledge.

There’s not a lot of room when they start wing-flapping!

Six and a bit week old wobbleheads

Day 45. The pair are slowly getting bigger, and are now beginning to replace their fluff with feathers and also showing how flexible their necks are as you can see here! We’re still feeding them as the adults are rarely coming back to the nest box (partly due to the recent bad weather). Defrosted day-old chick anyone?!

Five and a bit week old fluffballs

Day 41. We had to do some essential repairs to the nest box, involving briefly removing the side hatch of the nest box, so took advantage of the situation to take this photo (having distracted them with a field mouse which you can see at the feet of the owlet on the left). Box repaired and really helpful to see the owlets close up: they look healthy, though likely small (it’s hard to tell).

Now more defrosting of baby chicks, groan.

Won’t keep still

Day 41. Almost six weeks old and feeding better with our careful supplementation of their diet with a mixture of fresh field mice from the field and defrosted day-old chicks (this is recommended!): I had to go out at 2am once because I’d forgotten to defrost the horrible things. Not my favourite of jobs but the owlets are responding and getting more active and more feathers too.

Five weeks old

Day 35. The two owlets are slowly growing up and for the first day the mother has stayed away – this is normal behaviour but we’re going to keep an eye out to make sure she does come back and feed them tonight. We’re still having to supplement their diet so they’re getting used to our minimal (and very careful) contact.

Four weeks old

28 days since the first egg hatched and both remaining hootlets are doing well. A good night of hunting last night with even the dad bringing back food for the youngsters. They’re getting bigger, more boisterous and feathers getting longer.

The two hootlets wait for dad to return.

The younger hootlet isn’t ill, just trying to get some sleep!

First feathers

Day 27. The two furballs are getting bigger, and now showing the first signs of feathers underneath the fluff. Too big now for the mother to sit on and she has to endure constant attention-seeking behaviour. Hunting is still not great so we are having to carefully supplement feed them (mostly with field mice that we are catching in the field).

Watch for the mother preening her flight feathers and then one of the owlets trying to help by imitating this behaviour.

Down in one

Day 23. Better hunting by the female last night, thank goodness, so two juicy field mice for the hootlets’ breakfast. The older furball has been dominating the feeding recently so it’s good to see the younger getting a chance: here it is managing, with some difficulty, to down it in one.

5, 4, 3…

Day 22. A difficult couple of days where we lost another tiny hootlet and are now down to two. This is almost certainly down to lack of food, with neither parent bringing back enough. The dad had been absent but has now returned to join them during the day, and last night the mother brought back a big fat mole. The remaining furballs are looking healthy and active but we may need to supplement feed them so are getting advice and keeping a close eye on the situation.

Being a parent is so stressful!

Dad’s back, but empty-handed (empty-clawed, empty-beaked?)

Not so hungry

Day 20. The mother brought back two fat field voles last night so the three wobbleheads have fed well, and are now spending the day annoying her and each other. Still no sight of the dad though.

Not sure why video quality a bit poor – time to investigate camera settings.

Hungry

Day 19. Neither parent brought any food back tonight (and the male has started staying away during the day) so the three owlets are getting hungry. Hopefully more luck tonight.

Still three

Day 18. The three remaining hootlets seem to be OK, but the dad is being pretty useless, going out all night and coming back without any food for them. The female had to go out last night so they didn’t go hungry. He even had the nerve to want ‘make babies’ again with her again today.

Raw nature

Day 16. It’s been hard to tell how many owlets there are in the fluffy heap in the nest box but this clip from last night shows all five eggs had hatched, but one of the youngest has died and the next smallest is unlikely to survive as it is too young to fend for itself (the adults are now no longer feeding each of them but just bringing in and leaving whole prey).

Five owlets but one dead (lying on the right of the others) and one unlikely to survive (it appears, struggling, from under the left of the largest owlet)

Dinner time

Day 15. The female is now going out hunting for the hootlets but they’re still too small to feed themselves so she has cut up their meal and feed bits of field vole to each of them. Yum!

Escapee

Day 13. Our first daytime glimpse of one of the hatchlings, trying to escape from the mum. As the days go by the noisy bundle of fluff is getting bigger and harder for her to keep on top of it.

One, two, three and a tiny four

Day 12. Four hootlets, getting noisier and more boisterous as they get bigger. The mother is leaving the nest from time to time during the night, now that it is warmer and the owlets are developing their owl downy insulation.

The fourth owl (top right of the group) is very small in comparison as it was the last to hatch. It may well not survive as the adults would struggle to feed all four.