Thursday, March 08, 2012

Cage Updates

In a way it was a good thing that Rusty and Iris' first batch of eggs didn't hatch.  This way we have time to make a gazillion updates to the cages that we've been waiting to do.  Yesterday was the day we worked on the breeding cage.

We patched squirrel holes and other gaps on the north side of the cage near the nest, two above the rain roof, and one on the wall near the bath pan.  Hein put steel siding on the ladder leading up to the nest hatch door to prevent climbing critters from getting up there.  I added lots of nesting material to the nest so Rusty can't dig all the way down to China.

Hein installed a dome illuminator near the nest and I removed the hot box from the food tray table.  Since it's kind of warm now, I also put in and filled the bath pan.  While we were in there I also picked up all the gopher remains, pellets and poop.  Whew, it feels good to have all that done!!!!

We watched anxiously for the infrared illuminator to kick in to see what it would look like.  It's marvelous...just like someone put in a light bulb near the nest!  We were also happy to see that Rusty enthusiastically jumped into his role digging in the nest to prepare a new nest bowl.

While in the cage I noticed some chewed walnuts inside the walls near the bath pan.  I assume the squirrels that were in the cage weeks ago did this and have since left them.  But that night I got an answer to the question of what the heck is digging and chewing so loudly on that side of the cage: MICE!  The mice are running in and around the walnut shells, rattling them as the move around.  And they didn't stay put over there either...they had to check out the new nesting material in the nest.  Of course Rusty and Iris ignored them.

It seems we're on the road to renesting.  On Monday I counted all of Rusty and Iris' copulations, for a total of 16!  I don't think they're keeping up that pace every day (I'm not counting), but Rusty sure seems intent on making more fertile eggs yet this year.


  1. All your improvements are wonderful. Boy, both of you must have worked hard. And Rusty is definitely earning his keep. Can't wait until they nest again.

    I tuned in at 10:58 to find Rusty snuggled in the nest and hooting. I had no idea that hooting involved making sort of chugging start-up sounds ( like a train before it leaves the station) that finally result in a full-blown hoot. I didn't think I had heard it before. Mapleowl

  2. Just after 1am, Rusty and Iris got pretty stirred up by an owl hooting outside the cage, resulting in some interesting vocalizations.

    Could you see any Northern Lights up there? I heard they were supposed to be pretty intense tonight.

  3. Yes, mapleowl, Rusty and Iris both make interesting clucking sounds while digging in the nest (and when Rusty is going to feed Iris and when Iris is going to feed the eggs/chicks.)

  4. Good work on completing all the updates to the nest and pens! Let's keep our fingers and talons crossed for healthy hatch-lings.


  5. The new infrared is great. You can see things better.

  6. Hmm...just now (18:08 PST on 09 Mar 2012), there was a dead two-tone mouselike something on the nest platform. Iris was sitting on the edge of the platform looking at it, and she just picked it up in her beak and cached it in the nest area. I was away from my computer and heard a lot of hooting but wasn't watching--did you leave something other than the usual gopher fare tonight, or did Rusty finally nail one of the rodent squatters? Rusty just (18:11 PST) landed on the food tray, and Iris is on the nest platform looking at where she left the mousething...and now (18:12 PST) she's gone to the log perch.

    Saw the camera work in progress earlier, too. Was wondering if you'd do a little touch-up on that side of the enclosure...

    18:13 PST, and they've both gone into the flight cage--guess they head you coming with dinner.....

  7. We got some different food for the owls now for variety: rabbits, rats, and mice. The two-toned thing is a rat.

  8. Karla, if Rusty and Iris are successful in breeding, I was wondering about the final disposition of the babies. They can't really teach the owlets to hunt, so will they be releasable? Thanks! Great work on the improvements! Things look even better, and they looked pretty darn good before!

  9. Hunting is a natural instinct that just requires practice. Before the young are released, they will be offered live prey in the flight cage to make sure they're hunting well. Once they're hunting, a door to the outside will be opened up so they can come and go as they please, and food will still be provided in the cage until they no longer come back for it, indicating they are self sufficient.