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Fotherdale Barn Owls 2020 | Stories from a Barn Owl Nest Camera

This blog follows the lives of a barn owl family living in my garden in North Yorkshire and is taken from the best of video clips from live nest cameras.


June 2020

Just One Barn Owl Chick Hatches & I Name it Solo

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

Sadly only one egg from the clutch of three hatched. I named this only chick Solo. Solo hatched on May 8th – a week later than expected. The video below includes incredible footage of this barn owl chick emerging from its cracking shell.

Footage shows chick ‘unfold’ from egg

I had been watching the clutch carefully and so when I spotted a crack in one of the eggs I waited to see the chick chip out. Watch carefully to see it almost unfold as the shell falls away. Interestingly, the adult female eats the shell to restore nutrients that she will have lost during incubation.

The parent birds are very protective 

Watch how careful the female is not to harm the helpless chick with her sharp talons. You can see her slide one foot carefully from under the chick’s head as she steps away for a stretch. She is also fearsome.

I noticed during incubation she was always on the lookout for danger and would readily chase other birds away from the nest site. Listen to her here clacking her beak when a tawny owl passes. I expect she will be very protective of her chick.

And her mate is an attentive partner. See him deliver a mouse to the brooding female. She swallows it headfirst, shaking her head as its tail gives her a little tickle on the way down.

Tragedy as 2nd egg fails

Eggs hatch at three-day intervals and on the third day, I noticed a chip in the second egg. Sadly, however, it failed to hatch. It was as though it became exhausted with the effort. Watch the film to see how the female, realising her chick had died in its eggshell, lifts it from under her, and discards it. When the male comes in, he taps the egg then walks over to comfort the female, actually looking underneath her as if to check if  Solo, is ok. It’s a poignant moment.

Solo grows fast with so much attention

At six days old Solo could almost sit upright. Watch the adult female feeds this only chick. She tucks it into her breast to keep it warm and cosy, then clutches the prey with her talons and plucks off tiny morsels for it.

Sadly the third egg also did not hatch. This happens when eggs are insufficiently brooded or haven’t been fertilised properly. Thankfully this pair have Solo, which they lavish with care. By 12 days old Solo has grown considerably and although it has not yet developed any feathers, the adult female preens it.

Watch the video

See the story unfold on film. I’ll look forward to sharing Solo’s progress with you in the coming weeks.

 

May 4th, 2020

There’s a New Barn Owl in Town – And He’s Not Welcome

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

Chaos ensued this week when a new barn owl unwittingly entered the valley. The owl was spotted on the cameras trying to take cover in my Ash Stump box. I knew immediately that it wasn’t a resident owl because it wore an identification ring on its leg.

The owl soon discovered that this valley is already well-populated with birds of prey. As soon as it landed on my ash stump box, the female kestrel who had been busily incubating her clutch of eggs angrily blocked the entrance to the box with her wings.

A lucky escape

The incomer retreated only to land in a box the tawny owl uses to roost in during the day. Spotting the barn owl at the entrance to its box, the tawny owl flew straight at the barn owl. Thankfully the barn owl managed to slip under the tawny’s wing and escape. Barn owls are much smaller than tawnys and tend to come off worse during confrontations of this sort.

Inside the Elm Stump Box, my resident female barn owl left her eggs to see what all the noise was about. She returned to her eggs agitated and began calling in distress. On hearing her calls, the male barn owl appeared, but his attempts to reassure her by cementing their bond at that moment were swiftly rebuffed and the male barn owl left the nest to check the coast is now clear.

But the male gets a kicking

But just as he lifted off, the tawny owl, who is now looking for trouble, flew at him, delivering such a hard blow to the barn owl’s head that the male barn owl fell back into the box.

 


April 6th, 2020

Barn Owl Lays a Clutch of Three

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

The barn owls now have a clutch of three eggs and it looks like this will be all for this season. The female laid the second egg on April 2nd, two days after her first egg, and then laid her final egg on April 6th, three days later. The following video was compiled from the best of footage from the nest cam and reveals how owls cope with the confinement that incubation involves! 

Barn Owl Dinner Etiquette

During this time, it is the male’s job to provide food for his mate. And etiquette seems to dictate that the male should also prepare his catch before serving it. Watch what happens when she tries to help herself to a bit of vole he has brought! He is not yet ready to give it to her and even though she chases him around the nest box begging for a morsel, he will not budge until she sits back down on the eggs politely so that he can serve it up for her nicely! 

Male & Female Roles

While this male has a very clear idea of his role, it is the female’s duty to stay in and keep the eggs safe and warm. And, as we all know in this time of lockdown, it is important to keep yourself fit whilst in confinement. Watch as the female keep supple as she goes through her stretching routine!

My film goes on to reveal a touching interaction between these two barn owl parents-to-be. On April 6th, moments after the female lays her third egg, she stands up to see the eggs she has produced at her feet then sits back down on them to incubate.

Proud Owl Dad

At this point, the male appears and nudges her, as though saying ‘Let me see’. Obligingly, she stands up and for a few moments, you could almost imagine he was counting them – a proud dad indeed! 

I waited to see if she would lay any more but that appears to be all for now. Barn owls begin to incubate from the moment the first egg is laid and they usually sit for up 31-32 days, so I’m expecting the chicks to hatch on May 1st or 2nd.

Watch the Video

See the story unfold on my video.

 


March 31st, 2020

Barn Owl’s First Egg 

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

The female barn owl has laid her first egg! She first stood up to reveal the gleaming white egg at 4.10pm! Interestingly, moments before she was coughing up a pellet and I wonder if the force of this also pushed the egg out at the other end! Owls will digest nutrients from the prey they eat then cough up the fur, bones and claws that they cannot digest in a neat ‘pellet’ that then falls on to the floor of their nest.

Watch the Video

I’ve taken down the clip from my nest cameras to share with you here. Watch as she coughs, then stands up and looks down at the brilliant white egg, it’s almost as though she was surprised. Keep watching to see her tuck it gently under her, make herself comfortable and then settle down to brood. 

 

Click on image to play

 


March 23rd, 2020

Barn Owl Courtship

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

The barn owls have paired up in my ‘Elm Tree Stump’ nest box where secret cameras are rolling 24/7. They spend lots of time in this box together, reinforcing their bond as a pair. They preen one another and stand very close to each other. Lots of mating takes place too, so I’m hoping we will have eggs here soon!

Choosing a nest

However, barn owls can change their minds about where to nest right up to the last moment and I have also seen these two in another nest box near my workshop. I’m hoping they will eventually choose ‘Elm Tree Stump’ since it is more attractive and will make a better backdrop in my paintings.

The female and male have both been digging nest scrapes in Elm Tree Stump. They dig these shallow hollows into the debris at the bottom of a nest site to receive their future eggs and often dig several ‘test runs’ of these scrapes before they are eventually satisfied with their chosen nest site. Scraping also acts as a signal to their partner that they are intent on breeding.

Digging a ‘scrape’

The male often gets a bit carried away and digs his test scrape too deep. This season he dug so furiously he actually unearthed a bit of wood from the bottom of the box. The female looked down at the deep hole he had dug in horror – as if to say I’m not that large – and instantly filled it back to a depth more in keeping with her slender frame.  She seemed very displeased about this piece of wood and kept moving it around the box in disgust.

Owl Housekeeping

Females regularly do the housework around the nest, pecking at small bits and moving them to one side. This one seems to have decided to have her clutch and it is in full view of the cameras, which is great!

Watch the video

Watch my latest clip below to see them preening one another and mating – I don’t think it will be long before we have eggs and their home for the season is finally decided. 

 

Click on the video above to play

 


Barn Owls: The Facts

Barn Owl Eggs

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

A female barn owl lays 4-8 relatively small white eggs. She lays an egg every two to three days, over a period of three weeks. Incubation begins, however, as soon as the first egg is laid. It is the female barn owl that largely broods the eggs. She sits on the eggs for 31-32 days. The female does all the incubation and the male provides all the food. I will be expecting the first egg to hatch on May 1st or 2nd with the rest hatching  in turn, depending on the order that they were laid, two to three days later.


Barn Owls: The Facts

Barn Owl Chicks

Stories from the Fotherdale Barn Owl Nest

Barn owl chicks are naked when they hatch, but they quickly develop a very thin covering of down. They are still unable to keep themselves warm at this early age so the female broods them until the eldest is around three weeks old. When they are uncovered they make a soft, chittering sound.

The male supports his family by bringing food, which the female rips into tiny pieces to feed to her growing young. By three weeks old an owlet can swallow a shrew or small mouse whole – they can feed themselves at this stage so squabbles over food become more common. At this stage the chick’s birth down is replaced by a thicker down. This frees up the female to help the male with hunting duties. By five weeks old the chicks can run, jump, pounce, hiss and click their tongues. They typically move their heads from side to side, round and round, even upside down! Their characteristic heart-shaped face appears, and the flight feathers can be seen underneath the white fluffy down. Wing flapping exercises begin at about seven weeks and by eight to nine weeks old the owlets make their first short flights. 


Barn Owl Artwork

My Barn Owl Paintings

Art inspired by this barn owl nest camera

My webcams are essentially studies for my paintings. Here are a few of the paintings inspired by watching and learning about his bird pair up close. Click here to see my full barn owl art collectionClick here to see my all owl art prints | Click here to see my luxury owl art gifts.

barn owl painting
Barn Owl On Lookout | Fine Art Print | Shop Now

 

Barn Owl On Cart | Fine Art Print | Shop Now

 

barn owl painting
Barn Owl At Rest | Fine Art Print | Shop Now

 

barn owl chick painting
‘Snuggled Up’ | Fine Art Print | Shop Now

You may also like: 

Kestrel Nest Camera | Peregrine Nest Camera


Read More: 

Helping barn owls to thrive on the Yorkshire Wolds

Wild Barn Owl Mum Takes on Foundlings

 


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6 comments on Fotherdale Barn Owls 2020 | Stories from a Barn Owl Nest Camera

  1. I adore your brilliant commentary on the lives of these beautiful Barn Owls and their family rules about food and their soon to be offspring. Apart from making me smile,your knowledge is great, thank you so much 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for sharing such beautiful footage of the barn owls and tawny owl,really interesting to see what goes on without us knowing what’s around us.
    We too have barn owls nesting in one of our big old tree s,every night we hear them,we live in a thatched cottage on an estate in Wiltshire with a river,and large lake.
    It is stunning day and night,and for the first time I ve watched a beautiful weasel hunting around the ducks!

    Once again thank you
    Ruth

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