This is our favorite time of the year. While others are watching basketball games on the television, we are watching the miracle of life on our big screen.
For the eighth year, we have an Eastern Screech Owl setting up her nursery in a nest box, just outside of our lanai. Why would we be so excited about an owl in a box, fifteen feet up a tree?
Inside the box, we have a tiny video camera. The camera is connected to our TV in the living room.Twenty-four hours a day, OWL TV is streaming into our house. The camera even has infrared lights to show what is going on after dark.
In other years, an owl moved in around the first week of March. This owl just arrived two days ago. The late arrival may be due to the cooler weather Florida has been experiencing this month. Mother Nature may have had other reasons; we really don’t know. We are just ecstatic that we have another owl.
Last year, the mother owl settled in on March 8. She laid 4 eggs within the next 4 or 5 days. She started her incubation ritual of sitting on the eggs for most of the day. We have learned by watching that it is normal for the mother to leave the nest at night to hunt; sometimes, she would be away for hours. Once the eggs hatch, the father brings food to the female while she protects the newborn chicks.
It is truly amazing to see how hard the male works to keep the mother and young in food the first few nights. It is not a small job. When the babies are about a week old, both the mother and father go hunting. They return often with food for the little ones. Both parents are needed to sustain the brood.
Disaster struck last year when the male was attacked and carried off by a red shoulder hawk. Mrs. Fog witnessed the incident late one evening; not a good thing. We were very concerned about the female and babies. The mother tried her best to keep up her energy and to feed the babies. It did not end well. The babies all died and the mother left the nest box.
Eastern Screech Owls mate for life. We wondered if a new pair would find our box or perhaps, our widowed owl would find a new mate and return.
As the days passed this month with no birds in the box, we thought we would not have an owl family this year. That is why we are so excited today. We have owls again! Same one as last year? We have no way of knowing, we are just glad the birds have returned.
On pins and needles.
We have always enjoyed seeing hawks in and around the yard. Now, with the experience of last year, we cringe every time we hear a hawk call. Screech Owls are preyed upon by hawks and larger owls; it is just part of the natural order of things. All we can do is hope that our owl family survives and flourishes this year.
Keep checking back on our site for updates and news about our owls.
FOG sez: Call me Doctor FOG. My specialty is OB (Observing Birds)