Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Girl on the Block

Life just got a lot more interesting (and hooty)! A couple of days ago a new female started hooting right in the yard. It was the same day that Victor and Virginia, the wild resident pair, had already been hooting at the edge of the yard.

This new female hooted all night and into the morning. I got audio recordings of her and even photos! The crows were mobbing her, but she seemed determined to stay right in our yard, right by the house. She even perched on the side of BOTH of the artificial nests I have up in the pine trees!

This new female wasn't a one-day wonder. She's stuck around. And she hoots allllll the time. You can hear her on the live video feeds on Ustream and Cornell. Rusty hoots back at her, and so does Alice from inside the house.

This new gal is awfully cheeky. Not only does she hoot all night, late into the morning, and even in the afternoon, she has landed on Rusty and Iris' cage. To top it off, last night we heard a loud THUMP--something had hit the window in front of which Alice was perched. It was dark outside and the light was on inside, so I'm sure Alice was easy to see. Judging from the marks on the outside of the window, I suspected the new girl.

This morning at 6:30 Alice was sitting on the same perch as I walked by. And a Great Horned Owl flew right at Alice's window, veered at the last second, and landed on the roof above us. Then I was certain it was this owl that had thumped the window the night before!

I don't think she's got a mate, or if she does, he hoots very little. But if she does, I REALLY REALLY REALLY hope she nests in the yard, even though it might drive Alice and Rusty and Iris (and therefore US) crazy.

In the meantime, I need to come up with a name for her that reflects her bold and cheeky personality.... Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alice Gets a Break

Alice has proven herself as a good incubator. She laid her egg on January 17 and has dutifully incubated it, staring at the wall for hours on end. OK, sometimes she watched out the window too, but jeepers, sitting in the same spot for 32-34 days is BORING no matter how you cut it. Especially if you only have 1-2 seven minute breaks a day.

The end of her 34 days would have been this past Saturday. But she kept sitting. I wanted to give her a few days extra to see if she'd just stop incubating. She was still going strong today, so I decided to take her egg away to give her a break. And get her ready to leave the house for the International Festival of Owls March 4-6.

When she took her evening break at 6 PM tonight I snuck into her room and removed her warm egg from the nest. I tucked it into my pocket so she didn't see I had it when I walked past her. When done with her break she settled back onto the nest like nothing had changed, same as she did last year when I took her egg away.

We let the egg cool before blowing it. OK, so Hein blew it...I didn't. He used to have an egg collection as a kid, so he's a pro at this. Her egg weighed 55.3g, and displaced about 55 ml of water. It also floated, showing it was no good anymore. That being said it didn't stink at all when Hein blew it.'s been at about 104 F for about 37 days, floated, and didn't stink!

Alice has already gotten off her nest a few times since we removed the egg, then she gets back on. If it goes like last year, within a couple of days she'll be entirely done with her nest and happy to have her freedom again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is in the air!

Things are heating up around here...both the weather and Rusty and Iris! The weather took a sharp turn to the warmer here starting Saturday, and it was about 50 F on Sunday! Rusty and Iris responded in earnest.

I had only seen them copulate a couple of times previously. Then early Saturday morning they copulated twice! Saturday night to Sunday morning was a workout and a half, with a total of NINE copulations that I noted. Iris started getting into the spirit and hooting along too on Sunday night and between Sunday night and Monday morning they copulated about TEN more times!

So far I haven't noticed Iris paying any attention to the nest. I would expect her to start digging in it and checking it out soon, but these are wild animals, so they'll do whatever they darn well feel like doing. She's still eating, so I wouldn't expect eggs in the next couple of days, since they normally stop eating for a couple of days before laying an egg. I guess this leaves more room for a big egg in the abdomen without needing to compete for space with food and intestines.

If you watch the cam you're going to see LOTS of action all night long now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

He did it again!

Rusty's persistence has paid off! Every night once or twice Rusty flies over to Iris' perch by the hatch and does some low, sexy hoots. Iris always meets him with hisses. And when he isn't hooting to her, he offers her food, which she often has refused. Of course it might help if Rusty offered the food BEFORE Iris had her own supper....

At any rate, just after 2 AM this morning Rusty tried his best hoots on Iris. Although she hissed, he hopped over on top of her and apparently copulated! Woo-hoo!

Maybe there's hope for a Valentine's Day egg....

Monday, February 07, 2011

Brave Mice, Fat Owls

I have seen little bright-eyed critters running around in Rusty and Iris' cage for quite a while now. I assumed they were shrews since shrews are meat-eaters, and these little guys were eating gophers that Rusty and Iris had cached, dropped, or otherwise left lying around.

The little critters were first seen on the feeding platform eating leftover bits and gnawing on whole unclaimed pieces of gopher. Then they showed up on top of the hide box where a bonanza of uneaten food was just lying around. Then the moment of truth came: the little buggers showed up IN THE NEST!

There's a camera right in front of the nest, so when they ran around there I was able to get my first good look. These weren't shrews...they were MICE! Carnivorous mice, I guess. Carnivorous mice that had been running around in a cage with some owl with impunity. But I thought that might change since the mice showed up in the nest.


Within a day of the mice showing up in the nest I saw Rusty perched on the side branch by the nest... the perch that some viewers have dubbed the "stuffed squirrel perch" because if you look at it in two dimensions instead of three it looks like a posed squirrel.

At any rate, the mice poked in and out of the nest and ran along the edge of the nest, about a foot from dear Rusty. He just slept and mostly ignored them. Then apparently one of the mice bet the other one that he wasn't brave enough to run out and touch that owl. And one of them ran out onto Rusty's perch and all but touched his toe! Did Rusty lift a toe or make any indication of trying to catch the mouse? No.

I guess I feed them too well.