Six owlets

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.

Six owlets and lots of food.

Sleepy owlet

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.

Ghost of a dragonfly

It’s the time of year for our dragonflies to morph from larvae to adults. Here’s the discarded cast (‘exuvia’) of the old skin, probably from a broad-bodied chaser as we have lots of those here and this cast is quite big (about two inches long).

The ghostly remains of a dragonfly larva.

Confused hen

One of our hens thinks she is a cockerel. ‘Tog’ is an old Speckledy and probably not laying anymore, so with too much time on her hands she has decided to mess around. Turn up the sound to hear why!

Update 15 June. Tog has developed a much larger redder wattle than she used to and has spurs have appeared on her legs. Signs of more than just a passing phase: she does appear to be turning into a cockerel.

Five owlets

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.

Five wriggly pink owlets.

Four owlets

Four of the eggs have now hatched and the mother manages to look after each of the tiny pink owlets as well as continuing to incubate the remaining two eggs.

The fourth owlet is just visible when the mother turns around.

Proud dad

The proud dad is sitting on the nest box keeping an eye out and chattering to the female and chicks inside.

Then off he goes back to his roost box for a rest from a night of hunting.

Two owlets

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.

Spawning roach

The roach are spawning at last as the weather finally warms up. They’ve been getting all splashy in a clump of water crowfoot and have been at it all day.

Normally rather shy, today the roach are behaving like a pod of dolphins.

Newborn!

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 glimpse of a little newborn hootlet.

One week to go

The two barn owls are doing well, the female spending all her time sitting on her clutch of six eggs and the male hunting for her during the night.

They’ve been sitting out the storm together for the past twenty four hours and will be getting hungry so hopefully the rain will ease off tonight to allow the male to do his duty.

The first egg is due to hatch on 28 May!

The male (in the centre) has a good hiss at something that lands on the nest box.

6 eggs

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).

Swan Lake

A juvenile mute swan arrived today, quite bold and hungry, currently hoovering up the water crowfoot (which is a shame as it’s just started to flower). Lovely addition to the pond though.

Still a little brown = a juvenile
10pm. Looks like he’s staying the night.

5 eggs

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!

Quiet family afternoon in

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.