The Camera Doesn’t Lie

The camera may not lie, but it doesn’t work, either–more about that later, though.  Back in December, we installed a bird camera in the nesting box for “our” Eastern Screech Owl, Megascops asio, couple.

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Bee Daddy perched precariously…

Wrapping the wiring around the tree...

Wrapping the wiring around the tree…

After The Bad Squirrel Incident in April 2014, we thought it wise to keep a third eye on our Screech Owl seasonal residents. This spring, with the camera up and transmitting to our desktop and Mama in the house on a regular basis, it was fun, if not somewhat addicting, watching her preen and rest in her little nest box.

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On Sunday, March 6, Mama laid her first egg.

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Here, Mama is peering out of the box, with her wings ready for take-off early in the evening after a hard day’s egg-laying.

The  second egg came on Wednesday, March 9,

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…the third,

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Friday, March 11

…fourth,

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Sunday, March 13

…and fifth.

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Wednesday, March 15

The eggs appeared on an every-other-day schedule and that is typical of how Screeches deliver. The egg photos were taken shortly after Mama left the house on each of those evenings.   You can imagine how exciting the prospect is of observing and chronicling the owl family as it grows and develops.  The gestation for Screech Owls is approximately 28 days, so by this post, if all are healthy, three owlets have hatched, with the other two hot on their heels–or shells.

Alas, there were some heavy winds here a couple of weeks ago and the camera went dark. Boo!  We’ve re-configured and manipulated all the connections and wires, opened up the house (when Mama flew out for her brief foray into the night) to diagnose the camera’s issue(s), and eventually removed the camera itself for further inspection.  It seems that  our bird camera has simply pooped out.

This photo was taken with Bee Daddy’s cell phone during his last scramble up the ladder and tree limbs to remove the camera permanently.

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Mama landed on the branch Bee Daddy straddled, just a few feet away, to keep her two big eyes on him. Once he removed the camera and we realized it’s not repairable, we decided not to interfere with the owls further this season.

I still see Mama the old-fashioned way,

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…as she peeks out  for a breath of fresh air, weary, and momentarily away from those hungry beaks. Just after that series of shots, Mama yawned.  I don’t know if owls yawn, but that’s what it looked like to me.

Mommy-work is hard.

Dad Owl keeps a close watch each day, all day in a neighbor’s tree which is a quick swoop away if need be.

Dad Owl snoozing in the last rays of afternoon sun.

Dad Owl snoozing in the last rays of afternoon sun.

Daddy-work is hard, too.

Five growing and  hungry owlets are a big responsibility.  A favorite food of Screech Owls are pond toads, which there are usually plenty of in our garden, but the toads haven’t noisily appeared this year, which is odd. Toads are a ready source of “big game” food that our owls hunt directly and since they’re not yet available, I imagine the owls’ menu is consisting mostly insects and the occasional rat, mouse, or bird from wherever Dad Owl can find them. He’ll do all of the hunting until the owlets are so large that Mama can’t stay in the box and then she’ll join in the meal runs for the little ones.

The owlets will fledge in May and we’ll see (hopefully) how many of the babies have survived to that point.

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32 thoughts on “The Camera Doesn’t Lie

  1. Oh Tina, that must be annoying, but great shots until the camera failed. Love the ones too of the Owl peeking out from her box. I hope she goes on to produce successful fledglings.

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  2. How exciting and to see those eggs appearing each day. 5? I had no idea they laid so many. Can you send one of the offspring over here please. We have 3 boxes waiting with no takers.

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    • It’s big brood, isn’t it? I just hope there’s enough for them to eat, though I hope they stay away from the songbirds. i guess I shouldn’t sit in judgement, though 🙂 I’m surprised that you don’t have more in your area–seems like it would be ideal. Maybe you could work out a deal with Austin Wildlife Rescue–they always rehab many screech fledglings.

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    • What’s been typical is that the babies stay in the oak for a couple of days and then begin moving to other trees. I’ve generally seen some configuration of the family most evenings until sometime in July. After that, I only see the parents rarely. In December is when I hear the male trill–and the show starts again!

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  3. When I was growing up I never would have imagined that ordinary people would have access to this kind of technology — to actually see inside the nest of an owl. Pretty wonderful from our perspective. I don’t know what really happened to your camera but I imagine mama owl decided one day: I’ve had just about enough of this surveillance! That camera has got to go! haha

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    • It is cool–and a little weird. I had dinner with someone last night and she suggested that within a decade, maybe we’d have little drones peeking in on birds’ nests and such. Goodness–what’s the world coming to?? Actually, we’ve made the joke that Mama pecked the camera to death–she was tired of ‘living in a fish bowl’. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Christina. When Mama is out of the box, the good thing is that she’s very still–unlike most fluttery birds. Will we try again next year? That’s a very good question. It was fascinating to watch the happenings in the nest box (not that there was all that much before the camera stopped working, but still…), but I also felt like we were a little intrusive, spying on that creature. Don’t owls deserve their privacy? 🙂 So, we’ll think about it and see where things take us.

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  4. some lovely photos Tina, I adore the ones of Mama leaving the box, she is so beautiful, I am like you, though it is wonderful to watch it does also seem a bit intrusive, the main thing is there is a brood and hopefully all will fledge,
    I know all about living in a fish bowl, my main room has 2 windows on different walls and is very light which is wonderful, however it means anyone passing can see in, so early mornings I only open the curtains to the side window, the front one waits till 9ish, Frances

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    • That’s interesting and disappointing. The camera we bought certainly wasn’t the most expensive, but it wasn’t the least expensive either. Bummer all around. But at least we know how many potential babies they’re starting out with, so you’re right about that.

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  5. Too bad about the camera going dark, but how wonderful to have gotten the shots of the eggs. It’s interesting to hear that mama owl didn’t freak out over your proximity to the box when she returned. I hope you get a full house of baby owls. None in our owl box, sadly, and for the first time in many years. A sick squirrel was camped out in ours, and we didn’t realize it until it was too late. Maybe we’ll try a nest camera next winter to keep an eye on things.

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    • Yeah, it was a bummer, to be sure. It was interesting though to watch her for those few weeks. My favorite times to watch was when she was obviously sleeping–their lives are so short and hard, somehow it was nice to see her relaxed.

      She was very tolerant of our intervention–we (well, Steven) had to get into the box several times and while she was concerned, she didn’t attack. Sorry about your sick squirrel thing, that happened to ours last year and Mom and Dad abandoned the four eggs, which was very sad.

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