Four Eggs!

After last year’s tragedy with the bee swarm, I was greatly concerned that our Eastern Screech Owl pair would not return, but they are such dedicated parents that they have indeed begun working on another family. They are using as their nest box the more recently built owl house that has a camera in it. And this year, instead of the owl cam showing squirrels inside, it actually shows the making of an owl family! Yesterday the camera verified that there are 4 eggs inside. To my knowledge, this is the largest family they’ve started, assuming all the eggs hatch.

4 eggs 04-09-16

Mama Owl spends most of her time on the eggs, and I believe Papa Owl is bringing her food. In this image, she moved up to the doorway but did not exit, leading me to believe that a cockroach pizza was just delivered. FYI, this is night-time view and thus black and white — at some point I hope to share colorful photos of the family’s progress. Happy!

Sometimes Camouflage Doesn’t Work

My last post was about camouflage, but the truth is, sometimes even the best camouflage can fail you, and you become lunch (well, in this case, a dusk-time breakfast for the baby owls inside the nest box). Here one of our screech owl parents is delivering to their owlets what appears to be a walking stick insect.


It always amazes me what incredible nocturnal hunters owls are, but especially screech owls. It’s easy to imagine larger owls hunting bigger active animals, such as rats, rabbits, and even skunks. But screech owls bring home caterpillars, worms, lizards (including diurnal ones that theoretically shouldn’t be quite as active at night but perhaps are), scorpions, centipedes, and apparently stick insects. Sure, I can still imagine some of those being reasonable prey, but caterpillars? Some of them barely move (relatively speaking) and often blend in among bark, foliage, etc.

Owls, I am impressed and quite jealous of your superior eyesight and stealth ability. I shall continue to watch you exhibit your skills for those few minutes at dusk when I can still see you before the darkness takes over and my limited nighttime vision fails me. Oh, to be an owl!

Edit: My friend Justin reminded me that this video of awesomeness exists. For your viewing pleasure, and thanks to its creators:

Baby Squirrels Peek Out… Also, Owls!

Despite our amused annoyance that a squirrel family is squatting in our new-and-improved owl house, it’s hard not to be heart-touched by the curious and playful little babies. They’ve been growing fast and are already peeking outside and trying to figure out how to safely get out of the house.squirrelsc04-10-15squirrelsa04-11-15 They also seem to share the window a little better than last year’s owlet siblings did.squirrelsd04-10-15

I just wish they wouldn’t chew on the box!screechowl04-11-15

The latest exciting news is that we have officially confirmed that we do indeed have an owl family in the older owl box, which we had moved to a different tree last fall. Unfortunately for us, though, it’s the one without an owl camera inside, so we have no idea yet how many babies are inside. But the fact that we see Mama Owl regularly now means that the babies must be big enough that she needs a window seat. It’s going to be harder for us to view the owlets as often as in years past — this owl box is wayyyyy in the backyard. But we’ll try!

If You Have to Look Down on Someone, Be an Owl



Mama Owl is ever used to us wandering around the yard. It used to be that she’d mostly ignore us — we were just big, talking, moving, non-flying creatures (along with four-legged furry ones that accompanied us) that really had nothing to do with her family up high. But now that we have chicks (technically pullets now) that get daily time roaming the yard and garden, she has free daily entertainment. The six pullets are much, much bigger than a screech owl is — we’re confident she wouldn’t attempt to go after one — but she certainly watches them with great interest.. like a hawk, if you will. That’s how my husband managed to get the photo above — I suspect she expected to see a chicken when she looked down to check out the noises below.


Mama and Papa Owl are fantastic parents and don’t seem to mind us taking a few annual pictures as they feed their young. We try not to disturb them too much, staying out only a few minutes to get some images and then letting them enjoy the rest of their nightly hunts.screechowlc05-04-14

Above, Papa Owl has arrived with a house gecko. Mama Owl had just delivered food to the babies and was still at the nesting box, so we assumed she’d leave for another hunting trip and he’d bring the food in to the wee ones.screechowld05-04-14

Surprisingly, that’s not what happened. Mama Owl flew over to Papa and got the gecko and brought it to the babies herself (Papa Owl is still visible on the left in the image). Very, very interesting.screechowle05-04-14

At one point she landed on the limb above our heads, in just the right spot — a gap among the branches — for a clear view of her. I love the image, as it reminds us just how small Eastern Screech Owls really are. They are at most 10 inches high and weigh 1/2 pound or less. Their wing span is up to 2 feet, however.

We’re expecting to catch glimpses of the fledglings any day now. Mama still hangs out in the nest, so they’re not big enough to squeeze her out yet, but most likely soon. Can’t wait to see those adorable Muppet-like faces!


Our Owl Parents Return

Our Eastern Screech Owl mama and papa are raising more babies this spring to join our wildlife family! I believe this is Papa — his darker coloration is the clue. 20140327-80owl

We’re a little worried because we’ve been hearing a Great Horned Owl most evenings lately. Normally this would make me happy, but Screech Owls are sometimes on the menu for Great Horned Owls. I’d be so sad if anything happened to our little owl family — they’ve been with us for a few years now.

Cheers to my husband for the great photo!



This is a mostly happy story of our owls, with a little bit of “awwwww” mixed in. Our adorable owls recently fledged, always a sad but proud time for us. It might have happened on Mother’s Day (we weren’t home that evening), but I think it actually happened the night before, because that night we could tell the babies were starting to lean wayyy out of their box. So that I (nor Mama Owl) don’t feel hurt, I’ll assume it was the night before Mother’s Day.

prefledge05-11-13Let me show you the last few pictures we were able to get of the owls before they fledged, and then I’ll show you the big event of the day.prefledgea05-11-13 Taking an afternoon peek…prefledgeab05-11-13 So used to my presence that I get to take a close-up… prefledgee05-11-13Parent leaning way out, moments from flying off…


Peekaboo pair…prefledged05-11-13 Dinner time, parents hard at work…


Smushed sibling, determined to get a look outside….

The nest box has been empty for a few days now, and as usually we didn’t get to see their big venture into the “real world.” But we wished them well and knew they’d become fierce hunters in their own right.

Today, however, my neighbor contacted me to say that he found a baby owl on the ground in his yard. I wasn’t home at the time. But he watched it fly over toward our front yard, so he assumed it was fine. When I got home, I walked over to where he thought the little owl had landed, but I didn’t see any sign of it in the trees or shrubs. As my neighbor and I were talking, however, I saw what looked like an odd, round rock near the base of a tree. It was the little owl, sleeping.


Of course, it woke up when we came a little closer.fledgeb05-17-13 Normally, you’d let a healthy baby owl stay where it is so that mama and papa can continue to care for it. But when we looked at the little owl, we realized it was having trouble opening one eye.


We also realized that it wouldn’t stand a chance against the neighborhood cats, especially if it was staying on the ground. I called Wildlife Rescue, and they wanted us to bring it in so they could assess the eye. If it wasn’t too bad, they’d put in some antibiotic drops and have me bring it back to its parents. If the eye needed monitoring, they’d care for it until it could be released.fledgef05-17-13What a cutie, even with one eye closed!fledged05-17-13

It being the middle of the day, the sleepy little owl stayed calm while we talked quietly to it and took a few pictures.fledgee05-17-13 Then it was time to get all packed up and ready to go. I brought our wildlife carrier over (yes, yes, it’s a cat carrier, but don’t tell the birds that), and we placed it close by. Then my neighbor gently guided the little owl in — it simply walked right inside. How sweet was that!

Since I had a meeting, the little owl snoozed in a dark bathroom in my house until I got back, then my friend and fellow Habitat Steward Jan and I drove him over to Wildlife Rescue. They decided the eye needed to be monitored, so we had to leave him there. Luckily, someone else had just brought in another pair of screech owl fledglings, so our little owlet will get to have other fuzzy owlets by his side. They were thawing mice to feed them as we left.

The wonderful folks at Wildlife Rescue tell me that they will try to release him near our area — something they do for raptors when possible so they are close to their original home. Maybe we’ll get to see our little buddy again someday! If not, take care, sweet little owl!

Bob and Weave

While we haven’t settled on a name for our parent owls yet, we’re going with Bob and Weave at the moment. They’ve been with us a few years now, and members of the family should have names — why we haven’t done this before, I have no idea.


My husband and I have been enjoying sitting outside during the transition from dusk to dark, watching as baby owls poke their heads out of the nesting box and waiting for Bob and Weave to swoop in with the first meals of the night. Both of us were there last night with our cameras, but then I wanted to kick myself when I discovered that my camera battery was dead. So I instead got the binoculars and used my “owl eyes” to spot the parents and study the owlets’ behavior to help my husband capture pictures with his camera. This one is my favorite — Bob and Weave being the great parents that they are! I’m reasonably confident that Mama is on the upper branch, and Papa is the one swooping in. Bob seems to be smaller and darker than Weave. Can you see that both have food ready for the babies?

One owlet was sticking so far out of the box last night that I worried a sibling was going to shove it out the door. I’m hoping this rainy weather we’re having will keep them in the box another couple of days. We’re having fun watching all this!


I can’t help but share more owl pictures. The countdown to fledge time is here, and very soon our little group will leave their nest. Then I’ll be sad but proud, too — proud of them for getting so big, proud of Mama and Papa Owl for taking such good care of their babies, and proud of us for building the nest boxes a few years ago.

screechK05-07-13Taking pictures of owlets is an interesting process. We have to be very careful to start by taking pictures far across the yard, in case they get skittish and disappear as we approach. We also have to be fast but discreet as we take pictures, and we just have to hope they don’t come out blurry. As the sun goes down, we’re challenged by the decreasing available light, and then comes full darkness. All the while, you can’t move very quickly, or the owls will hide themselves away in a flash.screechA05-07-13

This little screech owl was brave enough to fully sit in the doorway of the nest box. It spent a lot of time during the day just looking around at the big, big world. For such a little owl, it has some big talons! Here’s a closer view:


I guess having big strong talons helps you “claw” your way to the top, literally — and before your siblings have a chance to get there. We still don’t know the exact number of owlets we have, but we now know that it’s at least two.

screechE05-07-13At this point in the photo sequence, you can see that the sun is going down. After a late afternoon nap, one of the owlets peeked out to start looking for mama. Its eyes would track everything that moved — birds, bugs, dogs, and us.


I love the classic “bob and weave” movement that owls do, and this owlet did it like a pro. Of course, what it is really doing is triangulating, improving its 3-dimensional view to better target its, well, target. This will be important when it starts hunting for food on its own.


As it got darker, the owlet began more energetic searches for mama and papa. Of course, anytime I moved the camera to my face, the owlet stared at me instead.


But then it would look for its food delivery again. Then finally, the evening mealtime began.


Can you see the food in mama’s mouth? Or is that papa? I never know.


Here Mama/Papa Owl and Owlet watch each other from a short distance.

screechF05-07-13This time, Mama/Papa has brought what appears to be a cutworm. Yum? Well, I suppose cutworms are to baby owls as chocolate is to me.


Even though one owlet seemed to hog the doorway, Mama/Papa Owl would push it back into the box when they flew in with food. Why? Because there were more mouths to feed!

screechH05-07-13Here’s our glimpse of two owlet siblings. I hope we’ll be able to get a better picture before they fledge, but the owlets will have to share the doorway — I’m not sure they’ll want to do that! Could there be more in there? Whooooo knows?

By the way, we thought it was time we named our mama and papa owls. After all, they’ve been a part of our family for a few years now. I actually think “Bob” and “Weave” sound like good names. Michael suggested “Woody” and “Hooter” but that is so NOT going to happen. We’re open to suggestions!


It’s official — Mama Screech Owl has moved out of the nesting box to make room for her growing baby/babies. We still don’t know how many we have, but we do know they are ADORABLE.


I am in love. Look at that face!


One curious owlet bravely peeked out in the late afternoon — getting its first view (as far as we know) of the daytime world.


Surprisingly, it even kept a lookout when my husband ventured near — once upon a time, Michael would barely step one foot out the back door and the owls would hide immediately.  I guess after three years, the parent owls have decided Michael must be safe enough, and the owlets must be following suit. Me, they’ve always been remarkably tolerant of, even with me down below taking pictures.


As dusk turned to night, feeding commenced. Impatient, the owlet above claimed a good waiting spot.


And Mama and Papa obliged.

Kudos to my husband for capturing some great shots despite the dark and working with an uncooperative camera. We’re looking forward to monitoring baby owl time each day. We know we only have them a short time longer before they’ll fledge — we must enjoy them while we can!

Well, Owl Be!

Last post I gave a big-eyed view of what this post would be about. Let’s take a closer look at two nesting mama owls (and a fuzzy baby).

Athena is the mama Great Horned Owl that nests in a stone planter above the entrance walkway at the Wildflower Center. She is becoming quite the rock star, no pun intended, and she’s remarkably blasé about the stares and camera clicks from visitors walking below her. In the cooler mornings, only mama owl is visible, but as the sun warms things up……the owlets start to stir. This year Athena has two owlets. I snapped pictures while I was at the Wildflower Center plant sale last weekend, and while I could see both owlets, only one was photo-accessible.Great Horned Owls

It’s hard not to be enamored of that fuzzy little Muppet face.

Great Horned Owls

I lucked out later when one of the owlets got braver, resting in front of mama. The second owlet was moving around quite a bit but staying just about out of sight– if you look very closely, you can see a hint of the hidden owlet behind the plant (it helps to compare the two photographs directly above).

It won’t be long and these lovely owlets will be ready to leave the nest and start hunting for skunks and other critters on their own. Fierce hunters, Great Horned Owls are!

Back at home, we are eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the baby screech owl (or owls) in our owl box.

I have to say, our mama Screech Owl is a very good mother.

She’s calm most of the time, not minding me taking pictures or the rambunctious dogs playing below her, but she is ever alert.

One time while I visited her, something in the sky caught mama’s attention, and I saw her go on guard. When she suddenly ducked into the house, I looked to see what alarmed her. The shadow flying overhead turned out to be a black vulture, but mama Screech Owl was not taking any chances.

Mama Screech has had successful nests in our owl boxes (she’s used both in different years) for a few years now. I was out the other day, right at dusk, and I couldn’t see her in the house. But I could hear strange sounds coming from inside — baby or babies asking for food! And while I stood listening in the near-dark, mama owl whooshed overhead into the hole. I wish I’d seen what food she was delivering — I’m always curious about that.

With luck, we’ll get to see her young, and with some more luck, we’ll even be able to share a picture or two. Owl keep trying!  🙂