The first week after the screech owls left the box I thought the backyard would seem empty. Instead, the new pond with its cascading waterfall has brought more bird activity and some unexpected visitors.
We woke to an empty owl box on Friday morning. Two owlets took off on Wednesday evening, the first at 8:40 p.m., the second at 9:03, leaving the other two owlets to follow, but they lingered in the box, shuffling the sawdust, hopping up to the entrance, squawking for their parents to bring food. On Thursday morning only one owlet remained in the box, his sibling having left in the middle of the night.
Mrs. Owl is leaving the box earlier and earlier each day. Yesterday she was gone by noon and didn’t return until evening when it was time to begin feeding. We sat outside and watched the adults fly back and forth to the nest.
The owlets are now two weeks old. I watch them on the owl cam, waddling around the box, shuffling through the sawdust, looking up at their mother who is sitting in the box entrance. She is waiting to leave, anxious to leave. As the owlets grow larger each day and spring days get warmer, the box is becoming crowded and uncomfortable.
The owlets are all almost one week old now. The first egg hatched on Thursday, April 9, and the last on April 11, bringing the final count to four owlets. At one week old, the owlets are no longer amorphous blobs; they have wings which they stretch out as they awkwardly push out from under their mother and wobble around, all fuzzy round heads and tiny beaks and black eyes.
The last day of winter doesn’t feel like winter. Growing up in New Jersey, today might have brought snow. Back then we wished for signs of spring. Here in Texas, especially decades later, the signs of spring have been with us for weeks. Redbuds in bloom, primroses, bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush all over the hillsides along 290, Blake Manor Road and the pastures at the barn.
The owl huddles over her clutch this morning. She has laid three eggs so far and there may be a fourth egg hiding under her now. The first egg appeared on Tuesday morning, March 10, and each subsequent egg has been laid a day apart; so Thursday, Saturday and today, if she has laid another.
The female screech owl has been in the owl box for over a week now. I was convinced it was the female when she began trilling before she left the box each evening. Each night she leaves a little later. Last night shortly before 7 a second owl (probably the male) dropped into the box, so we know now there are two owls, that this is a pair, and the female is now in the box. Instead of names we have given them numbers like wolves: M20 and F20, “20” for the year. Waiting for the first egg begins.