Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rusty gets clean

Rusty at the nest basket in the cage.

It's been exciting to watch Rusty and Iris and how they interact. They are most active at dawn and dusk, which you would expect from crepuscular birds (the term "crepuscular" means most active at dawn and dusk.)

Sometimes they eat shortly after I feed them in the evening, but last night they waited until this morning to eat. Iris seems to eat first, then Rusty eats. Iris has cached some food (hidden it for later), and I can't say for sure if she goes back to the caches to finish it off. Rusty hasn't cached food that I've seen.

It rained yesterday and for a while Rusty and Iris both sat on the perch that's exposed to the rain. Around 6:30 PM, though, Rusty went in for a full bath, splashing around in the bath pan. Surprisingly, he took ANOTHER bath this morning after he had breakfast! Alice the Great Horned Owl doesn't bathe nearly that much, so I'm curious to see what kind of bathing habits they develop long-term.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Help Observe Rusty and Iris the Owls!

Meet Rusty and Iris, two Great Horned Owls who are both blind in their right eyes. They cannot live in the wild and they seem to really like each other, so they are the perfect owls for my breeding project as part of my vocal study on Great Horned Owls.

They moved in to their permanent home yesterday and already had a visit from the neighbors. Victor, my resident male Great Horned Owl, came by at 10:47 PM and did a bunch of wild hoots and squawks. Rusty didn't say a word, but after a couple of minutes Iris flew over to the side of the cage where Victor was and tentatively gave a quiet and hoarse she hadn't used her hooter for a year. Her second hoot was better, and by the third and fourth things sounded as they should.

The hooting lasted only about five minutes, but Victor was back at 3:45 AM for a few more squawks, but no hoots.

There are three security cameras and microphones located in the breeding cage with Rusty and Iris, and you can view an online stream at

You can help this research by posting a comment to this blog when Rusty, Iris, or the neighbor owls are hooting, chittering, or squawking. Just let me know what you heard and what time you heard it so I can que to that part of the recordings and save it for future reference. Three cameras are recording 24/7, so your help in pinning down the important parts is very appreciated, just like Alan Stankevitz told me about the wild hoots and squawks that happened last night!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The A/V Stuff

Alan Stankevitz works with a security camera while a stuffed Great Horned Owl looks on.

The cages were completed in mid-August, and yes, there's been plenty to do since then. We had to figure out what kind of cameras would work best for our setup and raise money to buy them--neither one a small task!

So a couple of weeks ago the equipment came in to get the breeding cage all wired up and ready to go. Mike from Ace Communications Group came over at 8:30 to put all the ends on all the CAT 5 wires and move my router. Alan Stankevitz came over at 9 AM to start working on installing the cameras.

The feeding tray in the cage made a great work bench, plus there were boxes and tools scattered all over. There were about three ladders in use. Two stuffed owls and a stuffed bear served as owl stand-in models for focusing and other camera adjustments.

Alan has a lifetime subscription to Murphy's Law and even though I don't have a subscription, his kicked in: one of the cameras was defective and no matter how hard he tried, it just pain would not stay in focus. He conceded defeat at 7 PM.

I ordered another camera and today Alan came over again. It installed without any troubles. Hein got the dome infrared illuminator in place. Hardware for the breeding cage done!!

Then Alan came inside to get the rest of things running. He installed the server software for the cameras, then started in on the complicated task of getting an IP camera up and streaming on UStream. (UStream doesn't support IP cameras, so he had to figure out some additional software to make it work.) I'm soooooo glad Alan is a technologically gifted person--computers, cameras, wires, hardware, software, name it, he can figure out how to make it work!

If all goes according to plan, the owls should be released into their new home the end of next week. They've been doing fine and dandy in their temporary home with falconer Erica Broberg in St. Charles, but it'll be FANTASTIC to have them here (and streaming online for the world to watch!)