Since Mama Screech vanquished the squirrel-squatter, she appears to be settling in for brooding quite nicely. In the past 7 years of hosting these beautiful birds in my gardens, observance of the parent owls has been limited to early mornings (REALLY early) and evenings as one or the other parent quits the box for the nightly hunting forays. Typically, I can observe one, or both, owls only for a few minutes, mostly as flashes and ghostly quiet movements between trees.
The mama owls that I’ve had in my gardens stay inside the brood house during the day for some of the time once eggs are laid, but I have rarely seen the mammas peering out during the day, except for early evening as the sleepy heads are awakening from the daily snoozing and before they’re “on” as nocturnal critters. As the time approaches for the owlets to hatch, the mammas tend to spend more time in the brood box and once the owlets hatch (April-ish), mammas are in the box full-time, with dads posted in nearby trees, attending fatherly duties and keeping a close watch on their little owl families. It’s during this time that I have regularly seen the mammas, their little Screech Owl faces positioned in the hole of the box, for longer periods during the day. If birds are squawking, squirrels are curious, or there’s any action in the garden, the mammas appear and are alert and visible to ward off possible dangers facing their owlets.
Each year that owls have settled in and raised a family has proven different from the last. The first year, the owls were all over–I saw that couple and their offspring almost daily. Last year, the owls were shy and discreet and I barely knew they were in residence and that was true for both the parents and their owlets. Other years, I’ve regularly seen owls in nearby trees, sometimes not at all.
This year there is a different dynamic unfolding.
I fretted that Squirrel Nut-twerp would inhabit the box before the owls could lay their claim, but that’s no longer of much concern. Now I’m anxious that Mama isn’t getting a good day’s sleep as she prepares for motherhood. She’s awake and semi-awake, her little face perched in the hole throughout daylight hours. Here’s a brief pictorial of Mama Owl in her various moods these past few days:
…and really annoyed.
My theory on her diurnal awake state is that she’s a new mama and is keeping close tabs on her surroundings–but I could be totally off-base. She’s not bothered by anything in particular–she watches the cats and dog when they stroll into her line of sight and pokes her head out when the birds are especially noisy, but seems nonplussed. One morning, I saw a squirrel (Nut-twerp?) scramble along the branch and stand on the top of the brood box. Mama Owl clicked her beak in warning and retreated into the box. The squirrel skittered off.
Mama Owl isn’t unduly upset with us humans, either. I had friends over Saturday evening, (for pi/pie day, what else??) and they all trooped out to look at the bees and the owl–she wasn’t fazed at all by being the center of attention and their oohing and ahhing at her darlingness. She just looked at us, unimpressed, and blinked her big sage-green eyes.
She’s retired into her box more in the last 24 hours, so I’m hoping she’s getting some much-needed rest. Mama work is hard–especially when you work the night-shift.