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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's courting time!

It seems that Ned and Nellie had taken a little sabbatical as they recovered from raising three owlets.  The juveniles have gone to find their own territory.  December and January is courting season for owls.  It is Ned's job to feed Nellie all she craves (men:take a lesson here) and it is Nellie's job (ladies: just ignore this lesson) to well, receive Ned's offering in ways other than food (how's that for our young Hooter followers?).  At dusk, you will often hear them hooting and hollering.  Last Sunday, my husband and son were raking leaves in the back in the dark (planning skills not one of their finer points) and Ned and Nellie were above them hooting.  My guess is that Nellie was saying to Ned, these nice men have stirred up all these mice so go grab me a triple decker NOW. Oh, and take those nasty tails off so I don't have to regurgitate them. So for the next two months, Ned will be hunting for two so he will be out and about with Nellie hooting to say "Here I am, you old fool."

It is also interesting to note that owls do not like sirens. You will often hear and siren and then hooting afterwards.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

60 second video of an owl approaching....

This is a one minute slow motion video of an eagle owl (which I think is the largest owl) coming in to grab some prey (which you never see) .  It is really dramatic and it’s cool to watch the feathers at the end.Click on this to see a slow motion approach of an owl
Ned and Nellie are still around. The best time is at dusk when they wake up and are hungry.  Last night I heard several cardinals around the car entrance to the Duke Mansion sounding the alarm so I knew one of them was around and then I saw Ned fly to a quieter tree. Tonight I heard Nellie in our back yard calling for Ned.  The triplets have left to find their own kingdom. 

Starting around Thanksgiving, Ned will begin courting Nellie and bringing her prey in exchange for…well, you know.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mom and baby hunt

I do not have a difficult time deciding between bunny rabbits and owls.  Bunnies win.  A neighbor called to tell me there were two owls on the roof of her front porch stalking a rabbit.  I went over and sure enough, Nellie and one of the babies were there.  A rabbits' defense is when they are being preyed upon, they usually don't move.  For an owl to hunt, they need to see movement so the rabbit was safe but I took no chances. The owls moved to a neighboring tree and I shooed the bunny to a safe place...for now anyway.

30 seconds of adorable baby screech owls  Trust me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Letter from Dr. Rob and the latest on the triplets

Even as babies, their talons are razor sharp for hunting.
I don’t think Rob would mind if I shared his last email with you. It is below.
The triplets are still in Edgehill Park.  Usually Ned or Nellie wake up first around 8-8:30 p.m.and hoot (to say I’m here, where are you?) and they are off hunting.  Around 9, their young are left to try and hunt themselves. They spend a lot of time on the low lying branches around the various groups of pine trees by the tennis courts.  They do a lot of hopping along the ground and swooping back and forth.  Last year with two owls, they were often together side by side.  Having three seems to change that dynamic.  One owlet seems to be the odd one out and whenever he joins the others on a limb, they take off.  He is also the one that seems to cry the most.  It is tough being the youngest.
Drive slow. They will be around for a little while longer before they will need to find their own territory.  Urban owls tend can mate as early as their first year and that will start in December.  If you have a chance this summer, head out to the Raptor Center and see these creatures up close.
Many of you read in the Observer's very nice send off for me
( that I am leaving Charlotte. Sad, but true.
I'm doing my trailing spouse thing again, as my wife got a job up in Philly and I'm heading up Friday morning along with my dog and all the junk that we didn't throw away or put in storage.

Two nights ago we trapped Mrs. Prince over on Rockbrook to take her old, dead-battery transmitter off. She was one of the first young we radio-tagged and we have been following her since 2002! She's feeding
2 babies this summer.

Yesterday we hung the last 2 nest boxes I'll put up and did some maintenance on a couple of boxes.

My last grad student, Jen Bates, will be tracking owls this summer and into the fall, wrapping up our 10-year study. It has been really interesting and fun owl-packed decade.

Thanks to all of you who so graciously let me and my students traipse through your backyards. I meant to come by and personally say goodbye to as many of you as I could. Selling our house and packing up left me time for none of that, sadly, so this will have to do.

Apologies to the rather long list of people I promised to put owl boxes up for and for those of you with email questions still back among the 2,500 emails in my inbox. When I get to Philly I'll try to catch up with that mess.

We're moving to a nice suburban neighborhood just northwest of the city. There's a lovely stream through our soon-to-be new property.
You can rest assured that I'll be putting an owl box up in the yard while the movers are unpacking the van!

All for now. Have to go make another run to Goodwill or the Raptor Center or someplace.



Friday, June 24, 2011

And then there were 3 again

Tonight we saw all 3 owlets swooping around trying to find small prey in front of our house and the Miller vacant lot. The owlets were likely born a few days apart which is perhaps why one can already hoot and the others are still crying. The owlet that was hit was likely from the next territory over.

One of the babies taking off

And then there were two

It is with great sadness that I share with you that one of the triplets was hit by a car last night at Queens and Bromley and was killed.  It is the plight of urban owls. When they go after prey, they have tunnel vision and see nothing but their target. I wrapped the owl up and buried it. When you see them close up, they are such magnificent creatures. I know it's just an owl but it doesn't lessen the sadness of loss.  The remaining owls are still at Edgehill Park. The last two nights they have started out there and then around 11 p.m. end up at our house in search of food. One still cries like a baby owlet but the other one can now hoot a little. Drive slow.  On Monday, the Charlotte Observer will do a story on Dr. Rob which will in part, feature Ned and Nellie so watch for that.
The greatness of a Nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, June 20, 2011

Triplets still in Edgehill Park

If you stroll to Edgehill Park around 9 p.m. and listen for cries, you are likely to see Ned and Nellie's family.  Several people have reported this since Thursday.  We saw them last night and watched Nellie grab something from the ground and go to her babies to feed them. This happened twice.  Hopefully, they will still be around for the next week so talk a walk and listen.
Hermione from last year who is a little larger than what the triplets are now.

Hermione and Nellie

Nellie outside box. This photo is unedited. Notice how the reflection of the sun makes her wings appear Carolina blue.

Nellie captured last year to read her band to see who she was.


Rob and Josh putting transmitter on Ned.
Hermione and sibling learning to hunt. The triplets are about this size now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2010 Owl Photos

If you click on the above link,you'll find photos of Ned and Nellie and their two babies from last year.

Ned and Nellie have triplets!!

 Last night, we heard Nellie hoot so we went to investigate and found 3 baby owls hopping around in the treasure tree near the driveway entrance of the Duke Mansion.  They seems to be flying just fine but their hunting skills aren't quite there yet so mom and dad still have work to do.  Usually, you know the owls are around because the other birds pitch a fit-mostly the cardinals.  To find the babies, you have to listen to them cry because they are hungry.  They sound a little like squirrels only higher pitched. They likely will be around the Duke Mansion (one of the trees at the 400 block of Hermitage was hit by lightning if you haven't seen it...) or Edgehill Park.  
Dr. Rob will be leaving us June 25th.  He will be sorely missed. He will write up his 10 years of research here and continuing his osprey research.  He is letting us keep the tv camera and the recorder so we hope that Nellie will use the box next year and the fun starts all over.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Only one week before the owlets leave the nest!

These owlets will only be in the box another week so enjoy them while you can. Click on the link on the right.We have seen both Ned and Nellie but have not seen their owlets who have been on their own for about 3 weeks now.  Sitings are usually around the Duke mansion, Edgehill Park, our yard (still hoping for free mice), and Hermitage Court (fish pond behind the condos). The best way to see them is still to listen.  The crows and cardinals are relentless in pestering them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nellie has 2 babies!!!!

Dr. Rob stopped by Thursday night to try to find Nellie's nest again. When he clicked his key to lock the car, Nellie heard the sound and came right away. He barely had time to set up the platform with the mouse and Nellie was there immediately and flew to one of her babies to give it the mouse. We all went to see where she flew and saw Nellie and her baby and then another baby. Rob put another mouse out and Nellie didn't even wait for us to give her some room-she flew within 2 feet of us and grabbed the second mouse to give to the other owlet. They are on the Duke Mansion grounds. As you go up the driveway by the brick columns, jus as you turn left they were in the mass of pine trees. Right now they are branching which means just that. They practice flying by hop/jump/flying from branch to branch. Usually mom shows them they way and they follow. By now it's hard to tell which direction they went because there are so many trees they could follow. They could be still on the Duke grounds or around Edgehill Park or the back yards of the people on Edgehill. They way to find them is to look up and listen. The babies are very demanding at this point and cannot hunt for themselves yet (fly first, then hunt) so mom and dad are feeding them as well as themselves. You can listen for the sound of the owlets crying to see where they are. You can listen for crows as they are the ones that most often chase the owls away from the trees. They are unrelenting. You can also listen for the cardinals as they will sound the alarm for the other birds that a predator is near. When you hear these sounds, look up to find them. Remember that as predators, part of their cunning is that they fly silently so you will never hear them approach-usually it's the other birds that let you know. You will also hear more from Ned and Nellie. As the babies cry for food, they often hoot at each other to see where they are and whose turn is it. They should be around for another 3-4 weeks before they have to find their own territory and separate from mom and dad.
On another note, we have kept the camera on to watch the family of squirrels who moved in. Because of the camera angle, we never see much of them but now they are big enough to be jumping around while mom tries to keep them in the box but they don't listen. It won't take Ned and Nellie long to figure that out. We also found out we have several flying squirrels around. They are nocturnal so we don't often get a chance to see them but they are flying around lots. The best surprise was a raccoon who decided to check out the box. Other than the great horned owl and cars, barred owls really have no predators themselves but raccoons will eat owl eggs. Many of Dr. Rob's nests have raccoon guards around them and we will have to add one. You have to wonder if maybe that is why Nellie decided not to nest there-maybe she saw the raccoon hanging around...
And the last thing is a really good book that a friend gave to me about owls. It has the best drawings I've seen and has 20 pages all about the barred owl. The title is The Owls of North America by Allan Eckert and illustrated by Karl Karalus published in 1974 by Doubleday. Ebay has several copies and Amazon has several used copies at very good prices.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More posts to follow

Shortly, I will post more adventures. Stay tuned. Above is Nellie and Hermione and below is Hermione strutting her stuff. These are from last year.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Photos of Raptor Center Owls at Dressler's

Carolina Raptor Center owls at Dressler's
Click on the owl to go to the album. Last Friday night, Dressler's restaurant was kind enough to host the Carolina Raptor Center and donate 10% of the night's proceeds to them. Just click on the photo to see the owls.They featured a Great Horned Owl which is the bad-ass of the owl family. The Great Horned is the only enemy of our beloved barred owls. The barn owl is just striking with its white face and the screech owl is too cute for his own good. They like to hide in cavities in trees and are very shy. The poor guy got hit by a car so only has one eye but through your donations to the Raptor Center, he was saved and rehabilitated.

Monday, March 21, 2011


These are Ned and Nellie's babies from last year. Nellie still has not been in the nesting box yet and it's getting a little late. Since owls are predators, they have their babies first so that when their babies are ready to learn to eat, they can practice on the rest of the birds who have their young later (I know, nature can be cruel...). Ned and Nellie are still alive and in the 'hood. I heard them in Edgehill Park last night. Nellie was calling for Ned (her hoot is a little higher and has more of a trill to it). After calling 3 times, Ned finally answered and then I saw him flying around looking for some vittles for Nellie. Dr. Rob does not know why she is not in the box since we have seen them "doing the deed" several times and owls tend to be pretty loyal when it comes to housing. In another strange development, Mr. and Mrs. Percy of Eastover seem to have flown the coop (abandoned their nesting box) as well. Mr. Percy had gotten the nest all ready for the Mrs. but hasn't been back since March 7th. Dr. Rob's best guess is he's found another female or the Mrs. didn't like the decorating job so has found a new home. Our Nellie hasn't been back to the box since Feb. 11. We will continue to monitor this very troubling development.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Still cavorting

Nellie still has not come into the nesting box. We can still hear them around dusk calling back and forth to each other. I have attached the link to the live webcam in Eastover where Mr. and Mrs. Percy are getting ready for nesting. This camera is in color and has sound.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ned finally gets caught and gets a radio

Last night Dr. Rob came with his lucky charm Josh, his undergrad assistant to try again to catch Ned. He was successful. Ned was able to grab one free mouse, then the net came up, and the second mouse was costly. He then covered Ned with a falcon cover which immediately calmed the very angry and disapproving owl. He brought him into our kitchen and proceeded to attach the radio which looks like a little backpack. You can see all the photos at:
Nellie still has not come into the box to nest but we did get to see a spider build a web which constantly set off the motion activated camera.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Still cavorting

Nellie has checked out the nesting box four times in the last month just making sure everything is in order. She'll look around the box and then go in and try out different spots to sit. The camera we have is motion activated so it only records when the motion sensor is triggered so that's how we know that she has checked it out. There have also been several squirrels who have checked it out and one very large and creeeeeeepy spider.
Pretty consistently, Nellie wakes up around dusk and hoots to Ned to say, "I'm up. Where is my breakfast." Ned, like most males when they are asked to do something, will be slow to respond. When he does, he'll say, "I'm on it." and then continue to perch. In his defense, owls hunt by looking for things that move so they get the perfect vantage point by being high up in a tree. For much of the time, Ned and Nellie hang out at the Duke Mansion or the south end of Edgehill Park (by our house). Given the creek and the terrain, it's a good feeding ground for mice, voles, crayfish, and small birds.
This is a photo from last year when Dr. Rob caught Nellie and was going to band her but realized that she had already been banded so that's how he knew who she was. He has named her mate Ned and will try later on to catch him to band and put a transmitter on him. You can tell them apart by their size-Ned is much smaller. Videos uploads will come soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ned was preoccupied

Dr. Rob came tonight to try to catch Ned with a different strategy. Since owls are territorial and mate for life, they do not take kindly to other male suitors. So, Rob put out a life-like stuffed owl surrounded but a net that would capture Ned when he went after this scoundrel invading his territory and trying to woo his woman. Ned hooted and took some dives but never came close enough for capture. Rob took the stuffed owl away and then put up the platform with the mouse which almost always catches Ned's interest. Ned was too busy congratulating himself for scaring off the competition and Nellie was actually pretty impressed with her man. They cavorted back and forth for a while ("HOOO the owl?! Huh? Huh? HOOO the owl now, woman?" "Oh, Ned. You the only Hooter for me.") and then we saw the cigarette smoke. You would have thought he would have been hungry but for some reason, he had no interest. He was resting on his laurels. Since Ned has been hard to catch, Rob is going to concentrate on some other pairs (he has about 20 that he's watching). He will come back when Nellie is sitting on the nest and possibly bring a live owl from the Raptor Center and bring in some real competition. As much activity as there as been, Nellie may be looking forward to getting some rest in the box. She should be laying eggs any time now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nellie checks out her owl box

Nellie has checked out her box to make sure everything was in order. They are still in their courtship stage. Around dusk every night, as they wake up for breakfast you can hear them hooting back and forth to each other. "Good morning, dear." "I feel like sparrow this morning." Tonight, Ned was up early and hunting around Moravian Lane. You can usually tell they are around because cardinals are the first ones to alert the other birds that they need to watch their backs. We anticipate that any day now, Nellie will begin the month-long haul of sitting on her eggs. Tomorrow night Dr. Rob will be by around 6:15 to try and catch Ned to put the radio transmitter on. So any of you locals are welcome to stop by for that. Come in by the back door as the cage will be set up in the front. For those of you that "tweet," you can follow Dr. Rob (what ornithologist would NOT tweet?) on Twitter at "ospreytrax"

Friday, February 11, 2011

Inside the box

The camera is mounted at the back of the box pointing at the opening so you can see what comes in. If she turns around, then you can see her front but for most of the incubation period, it's just the back of her head but the real fun is what Ned brings her. While she sits on the eggs, it's Ned job to feed her. Ned has spent the last month courting Nellie and that's why we've heard so much hooting and hollering. The barred owl call is "Who cooks for you." and for the most part they are saying, "I am here. Where are you?" or "I am here. Where's my damn dinner?" Dr. Rob has been giving Ned free mice for the past several days (he puts live mice on a platform, whistles like a wounded mouse, and Ned is pretty quick to get a free meal). Twice we have seen Ned grab the mouse and land on a nearby limb. Nellie then comes to him and he sweetly puts the rodent in her mouth. You can guess what happens next. Sometimes she gets a chance to eat the mouse first. In the next day or two, Rob will set up a trap for Ned to catch him (there are no free mice) and put a radio transmitter on him so he can track his whereabouts.

Nellie checks out the box

Several times tonight, Nellie has gone into the box and checked it out making sure it is ready for the month of incubation. She sits in different places to see how they feel. Rob has hooked us up with a motion activated infra-red camera so that when she perches on the ledge, the camera starts. We have an sd card that captures the images and we can download those to a computer. This is what she looks like when she is giving you the stink eye.