Young doves

Six days old and the two stock dove chicks are already losing their fluff as their new feathers appear. In only three weeks time they’ll be fully fledged and will have left the nest.

Not as cute as barn owlets but we think they have a certain charm.

Morning

Day 61. One of the owlets having a good look around before settling down for a day of resting. They’re not rushing to learn to fly so we are going to carefully cut down on the feeding to encourage them to come out more.

Male or female hootlet? We’re not sure.

One small step…

Day 59. Just a few hours later and the owlet takes its first tentative step out on the ledge. She doesn’t go any further though: not surprising as she’s come out of the safety of the small world inside the nest box to find herself twelve feet up a tree and no parent to guide her.

Eight weeks old

Day 56. John and Wendy from the Shropshire Barn Owl Group kindly came and checked over the two owlets: weighing, measuring and ringing each of them in turn. We are very relieved to find out they are both very good weights despite the difficulties they’ve had. The oldest is a female and the youngest a male. Great advice too from two very knowledgeable owl experts, thank you so much!

The two hootlets are safely back in their nest box having passed their medical and endured a brief photo opportunity.

Two tutus?

Day 54. The pair of owlets are looking much more like adults now with their new feathers and hardly any fluff left, just a thin ring around their waists. Not long before they’ll be flying.

The remaining fluff makes them look like ballet dancers

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.

She’s back

When the stock dove left the nest a few days ago (after unsuccessfully incubating a single egg) we took the opportunity to check over the nest box and move the camera. Within a day the stock dove returned and is now sitting on two new eggs. No sign of the male so she’s in for a long self-isolation. Quite determined behaviour!

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!

Mud pies

A flock of house martins has descended on the lake to collect mud for their nest building. We thought they were swallows but the white rump, shorter tail and lack of red on the face = house martin.

Tipton’s Croft isn’t always about owls!

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.