Or is it hoo-hoo?  Or maybe trilllll and whinny in the early morning hours?

No, it’s relief on my part, so it’s a big yay! 

An Eastern Screech-OwlMegascops asio, snoozes in the box early this morning.

This owl watching season has been an odd one, with this enigmatic bird more than discreet than usual.  I’ve only heard screech song three times this winter, and until this morning, hadn’t a single glimpse of the shy little raptors.   But here she is!  Is she exhibiting her nesting behaviors, perhaps?  I certainly hope so!

Update:  the nest box camera position didn’t capture any part of her owl body as she was hanging out this morning and she didn’t snuggle in for her daytime rest until I published, but here she is, boxed in for the day.


No Eastern Screech Owl, Megascops asio, pair took up residence in our owl house this spring, owing to the tardy eviction of a young Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginianus which you can read about here. We dissuaded her owl box residency, but likely too late for the courting owl couple who’d visited our garden during January evenings. Observing the lovers, I was hopeful for a ninth year of Screech owl doings, even witnessing the female checking out the box early one evening, but alas, I suspect that by then she was considering our box as her backup. During these past few months, I’ve occasionally seen an adult owl swoop through the back garden just after sundown, which means that they were probably somewhere nearby. I’ve had to glean my owl fixation through other sources like the local folks who placed cameras in their owl boxes and generously shared antics of their owls on Facebook during the nesting and fledging, as well as responding to a frantic phone call from neighbors who were attempting to remove two fledgling owlets from the middle of a busy nearby residential street and who requested my help. The owlets were rescued, placed safely in shrubs while owl parents were present in the trees, supervising inept humans fumbling with cell phone lights and quibbles about where to place the little raptor.

Rest assured that it all ended well: no one (person or owlet) was squished by a car.

My Texas red oak tree, Quercus buckleyi, where the owl house is situated, is fully leafed out for the year.  Lovely and lush, the foliage provides energy for the tree, shade for the gardener, as well as sanctuary and sustenance for many critters.

Note the black line underneath the nest box, heading away from the tree trunk. That’s the cord to the owl cam, which sadly showed no activity in our box, except for industrious ants.


Recently, the foliage has stepped up, or rather, layered over, and is acting as cover for a mama Eastern screech owl and her two fledglings.

Pretty mama Eastern screech owl.

Helloo! Aren’t these owlets adorable?

I don’t know where she holed up and nested or where she and Dad nurtured their offspring prior to their debut in the big, wide world, but for one day, they decided that my tree was a good place to rest from the responsibilities of teaching their youngins’ how to fly and hunt during the nights.

I realized before I saw the owls that the male toads in my pond–which were loudly, insistently, and nightly crooning for mates–had been silenced, and I know from experience that neighborhood owls are usually why love-sick toads are muted. Screech owls find toads delicious and the toads choose noisy flirtation over quiet survival–every time. The evening before I spotted the owls in my tree, I heard the owlets’ chrrrrrrrr, which in owl-talk means feed me, and I spotted two adults and two owlets perched along my fence, flying to and from my tree and a neighbor’s tree. The family may have been in my tree prior to that evening, but apparently I wasn’t looking up.

Even if I was looking up,  the canopy of leaves works successfully to keep owls hidden from prying eyes.
Foliage serves as good cover for wildlife. It was challenging to take photos, as the birds were hidden, at least partially, behind the leaves and owls certainly blend in to the trunk and limbs well.

Interestingly, while Screech owls have nested in the box on this tree for years, each May once they fledge, they never perch in the tree for more than a couple of days. Soon after exiting their nest box for good, the owlets’ wings strengthen and carry them to other trees in other gardens, and under the tutelage of their adept parents, they learn the skills needed to survive. During the summer months, I see them occasionally and sometimes they even land in their home tree for brief periods. I like to think they’ve come by to say hi!, but I suppose that’s wishful anthropomorphizing.

Mama keeping a keen eye on the intrusive human.


I’m conflicted when the oaks leaf-out in spring as it makes warbler and owl watching significantly more challenging, but that’s one of the important roles of tree and shrub foliage–providing cover for wildlife, especially for the vulnerable young ones.

Foliage serves as a plant’s method of breathing, generates energy for plant health, provides oxygen for all of us, and food and sanctuary for wildlife.

And, foliage is beautiful.

The owls haven’t appeared since Friday, but I’m sure I’ll see them again at some sundown, swooping from tree to tree. If I’m fortunate, I’ll spot them resting during the day, camouflaged by limbs and hidden by luscious leaves, making good use of the protection and life-giving qualities that foliage provides.

Given the beauty and the importance of trees and shrubs for wildlife, why wouldn’t we appreciate foliage in our gardens?


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.


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.


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


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,


…the third,


Friday, March 11



Sunday, March 13

…and fifth.


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.


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,




…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.