I began keeping a nature journal decades ago. Below are excerpts from those journals sharing my experiences with dogs, cats and horses, and observing the natural world in Austin, Texas.
Owl Chronicles 2022 – The Beginning of the End
The owl huddles in the corner of the box. He perches in the entrance in late afternoon or the middle of the day if it’s warm. The past few days he has left the box at somewhere between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m.; shooting out of the box and swooping down, he flies over the fence toward the greenbelt. A couple of days passed when he wasn’t in the box, but they were only isolated episodes.
The Owl Box Caper
We encountered a new problem this month. We turned the camera in the owl box on only to discover it wasn’t working! Tim investigated every possible cause for the issue, but in the end the only solution was to install a new camera. Now. At the most inopportune moment in the nesting season.
The Last Owlet
There is only one owlet left in the box. The fourth owlet left on May 12, several days ago, shooting out of the box suddenly like its siblings. There is always one owlet that hatches last, that is the last to leave the nest.
Leaving the Nest
Three owlets fledged last night. They shot out the entrance somewhere between 8:30 and 9 p.m. The two remaining owlets jumped around the box and hopped up to the entrance, begging for food.
The Screech Owlets Get Ready to Fledge
The owlets are getting ready to fledge. They jump around the box, stretching their fuzzy gray bodies up to the box ceiling, spreading their wings, flapping them. They dig in the sawdust, scratching away, searching for tidbits.
The Owlets At Almost Three Weeks Old
Inside the owl box, Mrs. Owl pecks at last night’s leftovers and feeds the owlets. Her gray feathers, dark with rain, stick to her, making her appear smaller. She grooms an owlet, ruffling through the downy feathers of its head.
Five owlets! The Owl Chronicles Continue.
The fifth egg hatched on or about April 17 when we noticed the last egg missing, but weren’t sure if the egg had hatched or been eaten. The owlets huddle together in one big fuzzy ball, so it’s hard to tell how many owlets are there, but by Monday the fifth owlet could be seen in the middle of its four siblings, its tiny white head and skinny wings and body sticking out.
The Owlets Hatch
The first owlet hatched on Monday, April 12, one month from the day the first egg was laid. Two more owlets appeared the next day, leaving two eggs unhatched. On Wednesday, April 14, two eggs were still unhatched with three owlets. Last night only one egg remained, so four have hatched.
Five Eggs! Owl Chronicles 2021 Continues
Mm. Owl surprised us on Tuesday by laying a fifth egg. She stayed in the box that evening and, for the first time, we saw Mr. Owl visit the box and feed her.
The Owl Chronicles 2021 Begin
Mme. Owl laid her first egg on Friday, March 12, and that is how we know the female screech owl is in the box now.
Winter Storm – Part 2
A little warmer today. Last night’s icy precipitation has coated streets, walks and driveways with a dangerous glaze. The driveway (which I attempted to shovel and clear yesterday) is a bumpy crust of snow and ice. No going outside today; too slippery, too much chance of falling. The temperature is slowly going up - 30º at 8:00 a.m. as opposed to 1º at 5:30 a.m. Monday and below 19º at 10 a.m. yesterday.
Winter Storm – Part 1
The blinds are closed, the drapes are drawn; the owl sits snugly in his box. A fine layer of ice glazes sidewalks and roads and frosts lawns and plants. Icicles drip from tree branches and plants. Leaves look like they are encased in glass.
Snow! Outside, big flakes of wet snow still falling. At any other time I would be delighted by true winter weather. Snow in Austin is cause for celebration and I am winter-deprived, but now I am just cold.
Tonight I sat outside as the sun went down, taking in the live oak trees shedding their small oval leaves and watching the screech owl poke his head out of the box. The moon was already up and almost full, an appropriate way to end the year.
The Middle of December Brings a Swainson’s Thrush and Changing Color
A Swainson’s thrush has been visiting our backyard. These birds typically migrate through in September and October on their way to South America and are seen more often in eastern Texas, so we are lucky to see him. He’s been here a few weeks and seems to like our pond.
The Screech Owl Arrives and Willis Goes to His First Show in Five Years
The male screech owl showed up on Halloween, peeking out of the owl box entrance just as it became dark. It’s a relief to finally see him; I have been waiting and wondering when – and if – he would appear. Each evening he pokes his head out about 5 p.m., preparing to take flight and leaving around 6 p.m., soaring over the fence and into the trees.
After a long, hot Texas summer with no swimming pools to cool us, we were ready to go somewhere. Anywhere. So, in this year without Yellowstone, there was Ruidoso, our escape from real life.
The Black Fawn
We finally saw the black fawn as we rode our bikes through the neighborhood. She was grazing in a corner yard shielded by tall oaks and plants with another fawn, a buck, and a doe, who must be her mother.
McKinney Roughs Sunday, August 9, 2020 Summer’s heat has seeped into Central Texas, saturating every plant, tree and blade of grass with sweltering [...]