I couldn’t wait to get to Yew View this week as I had seen, via my icatcher app on my phone (that can access all my cameras) that the tawny eggs had hatched. Exactly 30 days from when the female started incubation, the first two eggs hatched, with the third (laid a couple of days later) hatching a bit later.
This first clip shows the crack in the first egg. Watch it closely and you can see the owlet moving inside!
I glimpsed the first chick on the 6th April, as the female lifted slightly to remove the egg shell…..
By the end of the day, the second owlet had also hatched. The female started incubating after laying the second egg, hence these hatched very close together. The third egg was laid a day after incubation started, so that one hatched a little later…..
The owlets start their life covered in a soft white fluff, called ‘down’. Their eyes are closed and will not open for a week or so. They do respond to sound and movement in the box and you can hear their calls, encouraging the female to feed them. She also calls to them. I love watching this gentle interaction and the way that the female tears off tiny morsels for them to eat….
The male is a pretty good hunter and has been bringing in mainly wood mice and rats to the female. This week he also brought in a harvest mouse. I have not seen any on site this year yet. The fact that he found one makes me think there is a healthier population of them here than I think….
The female fed the harvest mouse to the owlets for breakfast!
The female leaves the box for short periods of time, allowing me to take a close look at this new family…
These youngsters will grow at an incredible pace. Providing the male and female can bring in enough food, they will put on weight daily and soon be tackling much larger pieces of food. As they all hatched so close together, there is little difference in size. Hopefully this will mean that there will not be an individual who gets less food, meaning it grows more slowly. Often in owl families, the smallest individual, if there is not enough food, can perish and then be eaten by its siblings! There is a very healthy population of rodents at Yew View so I am hoping there is enough food for all three to be raised to fledge.
Whereas most of the prey items have been wood mice and rats, with the occasional vole, this week we had our first bird prey. I think it is a dunnock. Last year, these two individuals brought in an amazing array of prey species. The female struggled to eat this whole!
It is a nerve-wracking time watching these cameras. However hard I try, I always get attached to these families and hope they all survive. The squirrels are still very interested in this box. I was amazed to see one individual actually come into the box this week. Tawnies are renowned for their aggression when guarding eggs and young, The box is quite small inside and the commotion that followed sent our tiny owlets strewn over the box. Thankfully, they all seemed fine. I just hope the squirrel has learnt its lesson….
If the male does not appear pretty soon after dark and if there is no food cached in the box, the female is already leaving for short periods of time to hunt. They will both need to be bringing in a fair amount of prey over the next 3-4 weeks if all 3 owlets are to survive. Sometimes, she looks out before dark and will often call to him.
The male has been using our Owl Mansion, at the other end of the garden as his ‘pad’, taking full advantage of the decking! He is not roosting there every day, but has certainly take a liking to this abode. There are a couple of other species also interested in it. Stock doves and this squirrel have both been keen to take up residence. The squirrel appeared on the decking whilst he was sitting there, but it didn’t hang around for long…
I am always on the look out for pellets and managed to film the male ejecting this one. As owls swallow their prey whole, their digestive system absorbs all the flesh from the prey, leaving the fur and the bones, which are expelled as a pellet. These pellets are fantastic to dissect as they tell you want the owl has been eating.
It is a fascinating time and I will spend many, many hours going through this footage and lifting the best bits to share. I also keep a record of all the prey items brought in as well. It is a special privilege to be able to have an insight into the lives of these beautiful British owls and I hope you enjoy sharing the journey of these new owlets, hopefully to when they branch into the tree and into the garden.