Hiding in one of the outbuildings one night last week. See, it’s not all about barn owls!
The two fledgling stock doves couldn’t get out of the barn owl nest box (due to the entrance being too high up) so we took the side off to help them. Here’s one of them mustering up enough courage to make its first flight. Its nervousness may be partly related to the nest box being about twelve feet off the ground.
You can just make out the other fledgling on a branch next to the nest box. It had just made its first flight and was encouraging its sibling.
The barn owl is getting a little more confident, coming out of the nest box earlier in the evening to have a good look around before flying off for the night.
The empty nest didn’t stay empty for long. We only just had time to renovate the second owl box before this beautiful specimen arrived. He (or she, we can’t tell yet) is unlikely to be one of the youngsters who recently dispersed, may be one of the adults (though we haven’t seen them for months) or more likely a new owl seeking out its own territory.
After reviewing the video we think likely a new owl – the way it takes an interest in the camera makes us think it hasn’t seen one before.
And on even more reviewing, we think it is a female – the darker tail and a glimpse of black spots on the white chest. We’re going to set up a second camera on the outside of the nest box which should give a better view.
A few days ago we left food out for the barn owls for the last time: if they didn’t come for it we knew they had dispersed. The food didn’t go to waste though: the next morning a greedy buzzard saw to that.
At last the two owlets have dispersed. They started coming back less and less during the night as they grew more confident and able to hunt for themselves, and we now haven’t seen them for over two weeks. They’re out there somewhere: perhaps the next time you see a barn owl it might be one of them.
It’s hard to tell if they’re not hunting well, or they just like free food, but they keep coming back to the nest box. We’re only putting food out every third night and they don’t hang around all the night, but should we cut down more and force them to cope on they’re own? The daft pair of wobbleheads need to get their act together.
It’s the season for caterpillars of all sorts (though we could do without the Large Whites on our cabbages).
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.
I remember you when you were a cute little egg!
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.
So it’s a Meadow Brown butterfly.
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.
The first sighting of a cormorant on the pond. It didn’t stay long (not much for it to eat).
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.
Here’s the video in slow motion.
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.