Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

To all the people who have been following our owls this year....

May we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful, prosperous 2011. For those who don't celebrate Christmas, may we wish you Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year ahead.

People have asked me what it's like to celebrate the festive season in a hot climate, so this is how it's done 'South African style'. December is a time for shorts, t-shirts, summer dressed, and sandals (not Teeny's sandal, I promise!). Temperatures reach 30 degrees centigrade and higher. The sun shines brightly and it is too warm to go outside without a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

South Africans love the outdoors so our festive season is spent with friends and family in the fresh air. Some people like to swim in the sea (the coastal areas get very crowded this time of year). It's always fun to get dumped by a wave and end up with sand in your swimsuit (or as we call it here, a swimming costume).

For those people inland, there are swimming pools and even dams to keep cool. Roads are quieter in Johannesburg, which is great for those who don't migrate to the coast for the holidays. In December in Johannesburg, you can finally travel a 20km journey in 15 minutes by car (normally takes 40-plus minutes in normal traffic).

Christmas is normally celebrated on Christmas Day, unless your family is like mine with a European influence, and then we celebrate on Christmas Eve. Traditional Christmas food includes turkey with all the trimmings, gammon, mince pies, Christmas cake etc.

Because of our hot climate, sometimes it is hard to eat a big, hot plate of food at Christmas time. More people are opting for salads or tucking into big pieces of watermelon.

For those who don't celebrate Christmas, December is a wonderful time to relax and be with family and friends. Most annual leave is taken during December, and schools are out for 6 weeks over this time.

Throughout the country, there is a definite 'year-end-wind-down' feeling, and businesses close or cut back on the hours during the day.

For sporting fans, December marks our cricket test series over Christmas and New Year with International teams coming out. This year, we have the Indian cricket team out.

Hope this gives you an idea of how we will be celebrating the festive season.

Merry Christmas everyone and keep safe and happy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wed 15 December

Rain, rain go away and come again another day!

Actually no, I love the rain and it works miracles in Nature - especially in arid Africa - so I don't wish the rain away. In fact, I just loved heading out early evening for a run. The rain just started falling again when I was on my way back home. There's nothing like getting caught in the rain, and resigning yourself to getting wet - and enjoying it.

It is absolutely torrential rain out there now. I doubt the owls are even heading out to hunt yet, although they will have to wait a long time for the rain to subside. Weather forecast predicts heavy rain in our region for another 24 hours.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday 13 December

We've had a whole week of persistent thunderstorms - both day and night. The garden plants and trees have grown inches in this time, and everything is looking green and lush. Even the wetland seems to be working hard at repairing itself. Reed beds are thickening, and new branches are sprouting from the tree stumps that were left untreated by the developer. It's a time for renewal and growth, which brings hope to our owl family and the wetland.

With the constant rainfall, we haven't been out of the house to see if the owls are around. Earlier this evening, one chicks flew right past our lounge window, and flew to the roof of the neighbour's house. I watched it for a while, while it stood on the rooftop - its skinny white legs elongating as the chick stretched up, looking towards the wetland. Something caught its eye, and the chick immediately flew to the wetland, presumably to hunt. I didn't see any other owls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday 12 December

Thanks all for your welcome back messages. I visited family in Switzerland, which was stunning, but it's always good to be home.

Our petition hasn't reached its goal yet of 30 000 signatures. At the moment, we are sitting on 26 600 - 3 400 left to go. Anyone who has not signed the petition yet, please do so using the link below. And thank you again to all the people who have already signed, and passed the link on to friends and family to sign too. Here is the link:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/4/save-the-wetlands/

One of the major newspapers in Johannesburg (The Saturday Star) ran an article in Saturday's paper, on our desire to save the wetland. After quotes and information from our side, the developer was quoted as saying:
" They (Allan and Tracy) are talking about Spotted Eagle Owls. They are the most common owl in South Africa, and will adapt"

While the developer is correct in saying that the Spotted Eagle Owl is one of the most common owls in South Africa, he fails to address the pertinent issue of the complaint we have against the development - that over 70% of the property is delineated wetland. Wetlands should be protected by Law in our country, and indeed, we do have laws that supposedly protect these sensitive ecosystems.

The developer failed to address the issue of all the other fauna and flora in the wetland which are not as 'common' as our owls - the Giant Bull Frog (currently on the Endangered Wildlife Trust's list of Highly Threatened Species); a red-listed data species of orchid found only in this area of the country (photographed as evidence of its existance); and sightings of grass owls (highly endangered in South Africa), amongst many other wetland species.

I hope that someone reading my blog, will pass on the above information to the developer for comment. I wonder how he will attempt to justify the 'adaptation' of our highly threatened species as listed above.

A 'common' species today, left unprotected and their fate in the hands of ignorant people, will be threatened tomorrow, and extinct before we know it.

On a sunnier note, we had a couple of sightings of the chicks this weekend - quick fly-bys, landing on a rooftop for a minute, and flying away again. They are still hissing, which is the only way now we can tell them apart from the adults. They are fully grown and from a distance, I can't see any fluff on them. Only in flight, is it easier to identify these little chicks who are still less graceful than their mom and dad. Still haven't seen Pot Plant Owl, but have heard Pappa hooting.

Will keep you updated.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday 9 December

It's good to be back in sunny South Africa after a short break in Europe visiting family. The weather there was perfect for a visiting Southern Hemispherian - crystal clear winter days, lots of snow and all the acitivty that comes with the cold weather. But as nice as it was to experience all of this, I'm pleased to be back home.

While I was away, Allan had a fabulous sighting of all three chicks playing / hunting in the garden. He also woke up early one morning to find two chicks playing in their old pot plant nest on the balcony. They flew away shortly after, leaving behind a couple of tell-tale signs of their visit - two poops down the side of the now container. How very thoughtful of them!

Last night, I scoured the area and didn't see or hear our owl family. I was sad, but also relieved that Allan had seen the chicks a few nights ago, so they were all well.

Tonight I've been lucky. I've just seen see two chicks flying around our complex. I'm sure one of them was Teeny - flying low with its legs dangling down to the ground. I think it was Teeny flying because the flight still looks a little 'rough around the edges' although the chick managed the height and distance of the flight well enough. The other chick followed when the first one (Teeny?) flew, and soon they were out of sight.

It's not a thrilling sighting with lots of action and engaging antics, but it is comforting to see how well the chicks are doing. No sight of Pappa or Pot Plant Owl. I believe Indie is with Pappa - travelling much further afield in search of a feast of adventures.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Update on our owl family - Sunday 28 Nov

Last night we were lucky enough to be outside when the whole family flew in for a quick visit. The chicks roost with their parents during the day, and we don't see them in the early evenings. In their later wanderings, the chicks 'migrate' to our gardens and at least one parent has to follow suit.

The chicks alternate sitting on one of the walls, or hunting in the gardens for tasty king crickets. What alerted us to the family last night, was the sweet hissing sound getting louder and louder. As if making sure that their arrival was noticed, the three chicks began a chorus of hissing from different places around our garden, and the neighbours' gardens.

Pot Plant Owl sat on the rooftop, waiting for Pappa to bring more food, while the hissing choir continued.

Pappa arrived with food, which was passed on to the loudest of the chicks - presumably Teeny, but can't be sure.

The family stayed for a short time, and disappeared into the wetland again.
It was lovely seeing them all again!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pot Plant Owl E-book has arrived

Finally - the first place where you can purchase an e-book version of "Pot Plant Owl", is through Ellibs Bookstore.

For those that have requested the e-book information, here is the link:

http://www.ellibs.com/book/9781849892308

Quick chick update:
We saw Jelani and Teeny last night, playing and hunting in the three gardens around our home. Pot Plant Owl fed them once, and left. Shortly afterwards, the chicks followed suit and we didn't see them for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PM Tues 23 Nov

We were sitting outside on the patio with a friend of ours, when all of a sudden, we heard that familiar hiss. Within seconds, one chick flew from a rooftop to the wall in front of us, and then another smaller chick - Teeny.

A storm was brewing, and the wind strength picked up. Still, we all sat outside - determined to make the most of this opportunity to see how our owl family was coping.

Coping is not the word I'd use to describe them now - thriving is more like it. Teeny now flies from grass to wall back down to the ground again, as if it were hopping to and from Teeny's Owl Box. We watched Teeny fly into our garden and walk along the grass. I can't begin to tell you how funny that looks! Jeli wasted no time in finding tasty king crickets in the neighbour's garden, and eating those. Jelani's flying skills are superb, but I do believe the 'Ace Pilot', is our Indie.

Pappa hooted and flew in to where Pot Plant Owl was standing on the roof. They exchanged a big rat, and PPO flew down to feed one of the chicks. I caught movement out of the corner of one eye, and was lucky enough to see Indie whizzing past, swooping down and then changing direction and flying left and up.

For a few minutes, we were lucky enough to see all 5 family members. What a thrill! Then one by one, our owl family left us again. Their departure this time, left me with a feeling of complete peacefulness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Thanks to you all and Teeny update

We have been flooded with emails / comments forwarded to us from Africam, and our own email. Thank you so much to everyone that has sent messages and questions etc. We will do our best to reply to each message, but please understand if we don't manage.

Quick update from last night (22 Nov):
Teeny hunted in our neighbours' gardens for a couple of hours - periodically flying up to the wall to look out. Teeny still hisses loudly (that's why we knows its Teeny!), and Pot Plant Owl was there with food.

We didn't see or hear Pappa all night. We are sure that Indie is with Pappa, and I suspect Pappa is showing Indie how to hunt bigger prey - like rats. Indie is our adventurer, so will be up for the challenge. Jelani was spotted briefly at twilight on the roofto[, but left shortly after nightfall. Jeli might be trying its luck with king crickets in other gardens that we can't see, or perhaps Jeli even goes into the wetland.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The webcam is off

It was with heavy hearts that we switched the webcam off at 19h00 yesterday - ending over three months of Pot Plant Owl's 'reign' of our balcony.

Our goodbyes were said to everyone following the webcam. Despite both Allan and I hiding from cameras at the best of times, we agreed to put the link on here for those people who could not watch the finale. Here it is:

http://goolya.multiply.com/video

This link was given to us all by Birdheart from the chat - many thanks Bird!

In the next week or so, we will post a couple more pictures of our chicks from this year.

And for those wishing to help with our Save-the-Wetland campaign, please continue to pass on the link for our petition. If you are wanting any information to send to media (your local papers, magazines and news stations), please email me on enquiries@potplantowl.co.za

Thanks so much everyone and will chat again soon!
xxx

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day of Fledging Sat 20 November

The day has come. We wake this morning to find the balcony empty. We scour our walls and the neighbours' walls for any sign of little chicks, but we can't find them.

As with the previous two years, it is a bitter-sweet moment for us. Neither one of us is happy, but we are relieved that the chicks are strong enough to go out with their parents into the 'wild'. Indie, Jelani and now Teeny, have proven that they can fly well enough to keep out of trouble. Soon, Pot Plant Owl and Pappa will have taught them how to hunt properly,and they will be set.

Thank you to everyone that has watched our owl family on the webcam. The emails and blog comments, and comments posted on the chat, have all been incredibly moving. We may not get around to thanking each and everyone one of you, but please know that all your comments are read and gratefully received.

A big thank you to Africam for allowing us to show you what we witness in our own home. Africam is a wonderful company that affords thousands of people the opportunity of watching natural at its best, that otherwise may never be able to see it. We appreciate the loan of the webcam which brought you the visuals and sound, which was amazing. Thank you!

13h00: A bit of light relief on this day of sadness for us, and other owl lovers. Allan is out on the balcony as I type this entry, cursing under his breath. Hosepipe in one hand, a plastic bucket in the other - Allan is on the first (of many) cleaning duties we will have to perform. It smells like a dumpster out there and I'm sure Allan is holding his breath in between mutterings. So far, he's found umpteen bones, feathers, pellets, and remains of prey. He's pulled out a 30cm piece from a half-eaten snake, and rat tails too. "Lovely presents you left, Indie, Jeli and Teeny. Really well thought out."

Round one of cleaning is over, and I think Allan has de-snaked the balcony by now. I bet the next shift is mine - yuck! "I'm going to have to bath in Dettol", Allan has just said, coming back into the house. I'm still hearing him mutter, mutter as the bathroom door closes.
Teehee - and I get to sit here and chat. Life is sweet!

We will leave the webcam on tonight and tomorrow morning, just in case the chicks return for a quick visit.

The webcam will be switched off tomorrow, Sunday 21 November, at approx. 19h00 Central African Time. Allan and I will briefly come onto the balcony to say hi (from approx 18h40), and to answer any final questions you may have.

If you do have questions, please email them to me on: enquiries@potplantowl.co.za or you can post them in the comments section of today's post on the blog.

We'll be on the look-out this evening for our dear owl family. The chat will be updated with any sightings, so for those interested, keep monitoring the chat.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday 19 November

It looks as if our chicks have finally fledged. We woke this morning to find an empty balcony. Sitting on the far wall separating our neighbours' houses, we spot Teeny sitting with, we think, Jelani. The two of them look like peas in a pod, squashed together looking out over the gardens. Pappa has used the same spot before to watch the nest during the day. There is a large tree directly above the chicks, but instead of using the tree, the chicks seem content with the wall.

There's no sign of Indie or the parents. We suspect they are all across the road in a tree nearby.

The final chapter here will probably unfold tonight, when we see how Teeny manages flight from the wall. If Teeny succeeds in flying from the wall all the way up to the rooftop, I can't be certain we will see the chicks again. At this point, there will be no reason for them to stay in the immediate area. The parents will probably take them somewhere else to learn how to hunt. If Teeny doesn't make the rooftop, then we should have the chicks in our sights for another day or two.

Only time will tell now.

16h00 Central African Time: we've been watching Teeny and Jelani do a set of big wing flaps and stretches, as they grow restless on the wall. For most of the day, the chicks have been quite happy just to doz off. Now, it seems they want to play. The afternoon has been warmer and the sun has shone for the first time in a couple of days. With the rains and now the warmer weather, there are a great number of flying insects about. Of course, this sight is met by the chicks with much excitement and anticipation - food, glorious food is everywhere! Even from where we watch, we can see their eager facial expressions as they watch the insects fly past. Now if Teeny and Jelani were a little older / wiser, they would have started catching them for themselves. I bet if Indie was around, he / she would be pouncing and attacking everything that moved.

I think tonight will be quite exciting watching them 'hunt' these insects.

18h40: Teeny and Jelani are getting restless on the wall. Soon Jeli flies down to the grass, and starts hunting for insects. Teeny joins Jeli for a while, but isn't putting as much effort into its own hunting as Teeny is into hissing. Some things never change.

Soon, the rest of the family appear. It's a special moment watching all 5 owls in the immediate area. Teeny gets back on the wall, and suddenly takes off in the direction of the neighbour's roof. We watch Teeny and wait to see what happens next.

Teeny puts all its effort into the flight, and makes it onto the balcony - still a fantastic feat, and a decent height increase for Teeny to fly. Well done, Teeny!

For a while, we watch as the Jelani and Teeny are joined by Indie, and together, the three chicks hunt on the lawns of the neighbouring houses. Pot Plant Owl and Pappa are off hunting somewhere.

Just before going to sleep, Allan and I venture outside and everything is calm. No owls in sight and no hissing from the chicks. I think the time has come to say goodbye.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thursday 18 November

04h50: We are woken up by the sound of crash behind us. We peep through the curtain by the window above our bed, to find an owl sitting on the windowsill - one of the chicks. It didn't see us so we quickly backed off. Next thing, the chickflaps and bashes against the window. The windows open outwards and up, and the chick is between the glass and the window ledge, trying to fly out. Every time it attempts, it hits the glass window.

Suddenly, the chick loses its footing and falls into our bedroom, onto the bed - almost on top of me. Luckily I knew what this bundle of feathers was before it descended on me, otherwise you would no doubt have heard a blood-curdling scream.

Quickly, we pick the chick up, open the balcony door and put it outside. The chick is panicked, and flies to the balcony pillar immediately. Pappa joins the chick, hooting a lot. By now, the second chick has joined everyone on the balcony. I think Pappa and Pot Plant Owl must have decided to take the family to their roosting spot for the day, because one by one, they all fly to the neighbour's roof, and then across the road to the next roof, before disappearing behind the trees. I hope we see them tonight.

Leaving behind Teeny, who was on the garage roof of the neighbour's house. We knew there was no way of Teeny following its family, because the flight across the road to the other complex, is a long upward flight for Teeny. Teeny tried getting over our complex wall, and got caught by the electric fence. For a brief moment, we thought Teeny was hurt, but seconds later, it was on the ground again, hissing. Teeny is now sitting on the ground at the back of the neighbour's house.

As soon as the neighbour wakes up, we will ask if we can fetch Teeny and return it to the nest. Teeny is struggling with flying up, and gaining height. We now think Teeny may be lacking confidence in his / her flying, and this is the reason why Teeny is not attempting anything but wall to wall flying along a horizontal path. By returning Teeny to the nest, we hope that when night falls and PPO returns to feed it, Teeny will attempt to fly from one roof to the other. When Teeny manages this, like the other chicks, Teeny will be able to join the family once and for all.

We will return Teeny to the nest probably at 06h30 Central African Time.

06h35 Central Africam Time: We found Teeny on a windowsill at the back of the neighbour's house. We were worried that Teeny had been hurt by the electric fence, but Teeny appears to be okay. We picked it up and brought it back up to the balcony. We also carried the owl box back upstairs before we got Teeny, so it had something familiar there. Teeny is now sitting in the owl box.

09h30: Jelani snuck onto the balcony to join Teeny. Jeli probably didn't take to the roosting spot that its parents and Indie chose, so the chick took things into its own hands / wings. In broad daylight, here comes our Jeli flying to the balcony to join Teeny.

16h00: Jelani is bored and hops off onto the wooden perch, and gnaws at the wood. Then the chick sees the owl box, and decides to move there. Teeny had been ignoring Jelani's antics until Jeli flew onto the own box. Now, Teeny is alert and decides to do something about 'this intruder on MY box'. Quick as a flash, Teeny is on the owl box roof too, pushing Jelani further along the roof, until Jeli is sandwiched between the wall and Teeny. Confident that 'the threat' to Teeny's owl box is contained, Teeny remains in its position, and nods off to sleep again. Poor Jelani in the meantime, cannot move a feather between the wall and Teeny's body pressing into it. Jelani resigns itself to being Teeny's 'prisoner' for the moment, and too nods off to sleep.

18h50: After spending the afternoon on the balcony together, Teeny and Jelani wake up and begin exploring the balcony. Jeli is the first off the balcony as soon as Indie is in sight. Teeny moves deftly from one side of the balcony to the other, until it suddenly takes off in the direction of the neighbour's roof.

Teeny makes the long flight straight across and slightly up, and lands on the roof perfectly. It's funny watching young chicks flying. They dangle their thin, fluffy legs as they fly, giving them the appearance of an airplane with its wheels down coming in to land - only the chick is still in mid-flight. Teeny lands safely on the roof and hops / flaps up to the very top of the roof.

Once there, Teeny remains looking out over everything. Pot Plant Owl came in with a juicy king cricket as Teeny's reward. Jelani was comfortable on the wall, and Indie took off with Pappa. Before Indie left the area, I was standing outside in our garden. Indie flew directly towards me snapping its beak, before it turned off to the side. The cheeky chick!

We spent most of the evening watching the chicks, and the parents coming in to feed them. Now that Teeny made it onto the roof, Teeny wasn't going anywhere. Jeli was happy enough on the wall - until Teeny kept getting fed. Then it was Jeli's turn to turn on the 'crying' and hissed loudly for attention and food. PPO and Pappa returned to feed Jeli too.

It will be interesting to see if Teeny returns to the balcony tomorrow morning.

Pic - 17 Nov Teeny in owl box


This is not a great picture, but one that tells the story of Teeny and his / her owl box. This was taken this morning. Teeny's owl box was moved downstairs to the patio below, and as you can see, Teeny is making full use of it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wednesday 17 November

After a heavy downpour last night, we wake to find two sorry-looking chicks in the nest. Jelani and Indie appear to have been out all night / early morning in the rain, for their feathers are drenched. The expressions on their faces say it all "Had enough!".

Teeny, on the other hand, is almost completely dry, standing near the owl box. The chick is not out hunting with its parents yet, so when the rain came down harder, Teeny must have taken shelter.

There's no sign of Pot Plant Owl and Pappa this morning. In the rain last night, I only heard Pappa hooting once, but I do know he was around.

16h00 Central African Time: no chat on either Africam or Ustream sites. I suspect they must be experiencing IT trouble like we had a short while ago. Tonight, we will give an hourly update on this blog, until we call it a night.

17h00: Indie and Jelani are fast asleep in the nest. Teeny is dozing off next to the owl box. Parents are not in sight yet.

17h40: Parrot alarm call alerts us to fact that Pot Plant Owl is sitting on the neighbour's roof. She's still looking quite wet from the afternoon showers we had today. No sign of Pappa yet.

17h45: Jelani and Indie look like they are getting ready to move for the evening. Teeny is face-planting at the moment - going nowhere in a hurry.

18h05: Teeny is up on the owl box roof, looking out. "Exploring time!" says Teeny. Jelani has found the parrot jungle gym to perch on, while Indie remains content to in the nest pot plant. Still no sign of Pappa. PPO on the roof nearby.

18h35: Getting dark quickly. Jelani is on the balcony floor and Indie still in the nest. PPO on the roof and Teeny on the owl box. There is a lot of cloud around, and there is a good chance of more rains tonight. Still no sign of Pappa yet.

18h55: Indie and Jelani are off the balvony into the neighbour's garden. Teeny still in the same spot. PPO and Pappa are not in sight. All quiet here. Very little hissing.

18h57: Teeny just got the first bit of food for the evening. PPO flew in with a King Cricket. We were standing outside and saw PPO's spectacular, smooth flight towards us. Not a sound was made as she flew effortlessly in. Indie and Jelani are attempting their own hunting of king crickets on the neighbour's lawn.

19h02: Teeny is on the wall now. Pappa flew in and fed one of the chicks on the roof. The other chick is still on the grass in the neighbour's garden, trying to hunt for itself. Can't tell from here which chick is doing the hunting.

20h00: The whole family together. Teeny is hissing loudly while standing on the wall. One of the chicks, I think Jelani, is with Teeny. The other chick is standing on top of the neighbour's children's play gym. Very funny that it has progressed from the parrots' jungle gym to the human jungle gym. Pot Plant Owl is with her chicks, and Pappa has brought food in for the family. Everyone is within sight and all are looking very well. Teeny is more confident with the others being around.

21h10: All is quiet and calm on the home front. Teeny flew to our garden, an is now playing on the grass with one of its siblings. The parents have been flying in with food, although they are trying to encourage the chicks to hunt king crickets and other smaller insects themselves. Jelani and Indie are learning to hunt, but Teeny still wants food deliveries.

As I sign off tonight, I can't help but wonder whether Teeny will find its way back up to the balcony early tomorrow morning. I can't wait to find out.

Ustream Chat room problems

From late yesterday afternoon, we had trouble accessing the Ustream chat room. Our messages were there, but clearly from the response and questions from other chat room users, only we could see what we had written.

I've updated last night's events to the entry Tuesday 16 November. Today I will try log into the chat room site, but if I don't succeed, I will update the blog tonight while the action is happening.

Tuesday 16 November

Our chicks were in the same place as yesterday, when we woke up this morning. Indie and Jelani sat huddled together in the nest. Teeny was perching on the owl box on the patio below.

The weather today has been overcast and cold, and the chicks have responded to the change of temperature by sleeping more. Teeny remains quite content on the patio with the owl box seemingly fulfilling the role of 'substitute care giver', in the absence of its mom and siblings.

Teeny is growing up - just like the other two. It will be anyday now, that Jelani, Indie and Teeny will literally spread their wings and leave us. Pot Plant Owl and Pappa have done an incredible job at raising the chicks. It never ceases to amaze me how strong the family unit is. We've seen it the past two years, and this year is no exception. I wonder if all Spotted Eagle Owls parents are as close to, and as protective of, their chicks, or if Pot Plant Owl and Pappa are a unique pair.

16h00 Central Africa Time: I've just spent a long time watching Teeny, and my heart is filled with pride for this little owl. In its short lifetime thus far, Teeny has gone through a number of tests - and passed them all with flying colours (pardon the pun). Teeny's faced certain near-death, been removed from its family and then reunited with them, fought for food and attention being so small in comparison to the others, and braved being alone - alone in the nest, and now alone on the patio below. One thing Teeny will always be, is a fighter. Watching Teeny the other night brave up to a cat, and scare it off, has made me realise that Teeny will survive. And while I will miss Teeny's hissing and the shoe 'attacks', I think it's almost time to let Teeny go.

It goes without saying, of course, that our dear Indie and Jelani will be sorely missed, and we send them all our love and best wishes too. There's never been a doubt that these two strong, capable chicks will make it out in the 'Big World', but there have been doubts about Teeny's abilities.

Not anymore. Not for me anyway. Teeny's well prepared for what lies ahead, and I'm confident Teeny will thrive.

Early PM - Feeling frustrated! Can't get onto the chat room to let everyone know the chicks' whereabouts. Will try again a little later.

An hour later: Still no luck with the chat room. By now, Teeny has left the patio area and is sitting on the wall. Indie and Jelani are awol - they took off as the sun set, and are nowhere to be seen. I've seen Pot Plant Owl feed Teeny, but otherwise, there has been no other action.

20h00: A chick has joined Teeny on the wall, and together they are sitting in the rain. It is a light drizzle at the moment so I think the chicks are enjoying washing their feathers. In my mind, I think it is Jelani that has joined Teeny, while Indie hunts with Pappa.

20h45: The rain is falling down harder now. Visibility is limited. The owls won't be travelling far in this rain, so we decide to call it a night.

A rather uneventful evening of owl entertainment.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pic - 14 Nov Teeny in garden

Teeny in first light, looking for a way back to the balcony. It eventually flew onto the bird bath, but couldn't settle there. Eventually Teeny went back to the patio and found the owl box.

Pic - 14 Nov Teeny and the Owl Box


Teeny sitting next to the owl box on the braai area. We moved the owl box dowstairs from the balcony, when Teeny couldn't get back up.
Photo taken with camera hanging out of a window of the lounge.

Pic - 14 Nov Teeny on patio


This is Teeny trying to get into our lounge from the patio. Teeny flapped against the glass, pecked at it and did its best to squeeze inside. It didn't work, and Teeny ended up by the owl box all day.

Monday 15 November

Early hours of the morning - Central African Time: One of the chicks (either Jelani or Indie), flew to the balcony, and landed on the outside of the balcony - balancing on a small ledge. It tried unsuccessfully to get through the shade cloth that we put around the bars to prevent the chicks from falling off the balcony. Some of you think it was Teeny, but we checked, and Teeny was downstairs by the patio area. The ledge is too narrow for an owl to balance and spread its wings to fly up onto the balcony railing. Instead, the chick flew back to the rooftop, and tried again, this time clearing the balcony railing, and getting on to the balcony.

Under the umbrella, Allan went out cut away the shade cloth from the railing, in case a chick lands on this narrow outer ledge again.

Despite this early morning excitement, all is well on the home front. Teeny is on the patio below, near the owl box. Indie and Jelani are in the nest - looking rather tired after last night's adventures.

This morning, the weather is overcast and cool - a nice change from the high temperatures we experienced over the weekend. There's a good chance of some light showers later on. Of course, Teeny will be well-equipped to deal with the rain with the owl box right at its feet. It's amazing to think that Teeny is the only one out of 8 chicks raised on the balcony, that has had the sense to use the owl box for shade and rain protection. Well done Teeny!

Our petition count to Save-the-Wetland is now at over 17 000 signatures! We are absolutely amazed, delighted and humbled by the flood of interest and support we have received thus far. Originally, we set our target for 10 000 signatures and thought we were stretching the mark a bit. In two weeks, we have almost doubled the target signatures, which proves to me that people do care - even when something does not directly affect them. I am so grateful to everyone all over the world who has pledged support for our small South African wetland, and 'our' owl family's survival. We have not saved the wetland yet, but this petition goes a long way to showing the powers that be, what people want, what our Laws state and what we should be protecting. Please continue to pass on the link to more people. Our target of 10 000 was the bare minimum we thought we needed to stand up and be noticed. The greater the support, the louder our voices will be when the time comes to hand the petition over. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sunday 14 November

05h00 Central African Time: We wake to find Teeny downstairs on the patio below the balcony. Indie and Jelani are with mom on the roof nearby. Teeny tries to flap / claw its way up the brick to the balcony above, but doesn't make it, and flops back down into the pot plant on the braai area.

Teeny then decides that the next best way to get back up to the balcony, is to come inside the house. Like last night, Teeny stands right by the glass sliding door of our lounge, and tries to push inside the house. When we came downstairs to find Teeny trying to get inside the house, Teeny looked up at us and tried again - even more forcefully to get inside. Allan took a few photos which we'll post on the blog soon.

By this stage, Indie and Jelani are safely in the nest on the balcony. We decide to get the owl box from the balcony (thankfully positioned right at our door) and offer it to Teeny downstairs, so Teeny has something 'familiar' there. We carry the owl box and put it by the braai area where Jelani and other chicks have stayed for a day or two.

Teeny is now sitting on the bird bath in the thick of the bushes at the end of the garden. Pot Plant Owl is on the wall above Teeny, so he / she is being looked after. Let's hope Teeny has the sense to go back to the patio, and sleep in its comfortable owl box.

09h00 Central African Time: Teeny has settled down, and is dozing off in the sun near the braai / BBQ area on the patio. Pot Plant Owl remains in our Acacia tree, keeping a close eye on her little chick. Indie and Jelani are snoozing happily in the pot plant nest. All is good.

PM: Teeny is a pilot! When Indie and Jelani left the nest in the early evening, and flew to the neighbour's roof, Teeny had enough of waiting. It spread its wings and took a long flight across the driveway and landed on the neighbour's garage roof. The garage wall is half the height of the main house, but in order to get to the garage roof, Teeny still had to fly upwards. The fact that Teeny managed to do this, is testament to the fact that Teeny is getting stronger by the day, and will soon fly like its siblings.

For the most part of the early evening Central African Time, Teeny remained on the garage roof, Indie and Jelani on the main house roof, and the parents feeding all the chicks.

On the Chat room tonight, we found out that our Save-the-Wetland petition has reached over 15 000 signatures! We are thrilled by the response and thank you all so much for your efforts to spread the word. Every signature / comment is greatly appreciated!

Pic - 13 Nov Family Portrait

Family Portrait.
Our proud mom, Pot Plant Owl, Teeny, Jelani and Indie behind Jeli.
This may well be the last picture we get of all the chicks together with their mom.
Pity we can't get Pappa to fly in for a quick snap.

Pic - 12 Nov Teeny attacking bark


Teeny 'attacking' the bark on the wooden perches. Jelani looking down at the floor, wondering what Teeny is doing.

Pic - 12 Nov Jeli Legs


Jeli Legs! "How cute am I, and what a sexy pair of legs I have"
Teeny playing the fool on the right.

Saturday 13 November

I was so excited this morning to see all three chicks back in the nest when I woke up. I suspected that Jelani would return to join Teeny, but I had my doubts about Indie, our explorer.

Seeing the three chicks in the pot plant nest makes one realise how much they have grown. There is barely any space for them to lie down now without flopping on top of one another. By mid -morning, Pot Plant Owl had joined her chicks for a short while. The nest pot was bursting at the seams with all of them together. It would be nice if Pappa was obliging and flew in for a full family shot.

It's come to my attention that, to combat boredom and owl withdrawal symptoms while we had no internet connectivity, some of our chat room viewers decided to make up stories about our owls. This is what the viewers came up with watching a black screen, and I quote:

"While Indie and Jelani scanned the neighbourhood from the pillars, Teeny hissed and called for his supper. First PPO brought Teeny a Cricket Pate appetizer. This was followed by Pappa bringing the main course of snake spaghetti, rounded off with a King Cricket crunch dessert. It was a feast that put Teeny in a food coma."

and another part of the story,
"Jelani and Indie flapped off the balcony to explore, until PPO hooted loudly for their return, for supper. They eventually obliged and flapped their way back to the balcony, only to find that Teeny had eaten all the good stuff, and they were left with King Crickets. Teeny woke up from his coma, and joined his sibs in the pot plant for another nap"

While this was going on, other people were logging in to view the webcam, and they were all very confused - to put it mildly.
"What are you guys looking at?"
"Where are you watching?"
"Something's wrong with my screen. All I see is the black square"

Moral of this story?
Next time you find yourself looking at something mundane like a black square, think of all the other limitless possibilities this 'black square' may hold. You may be surprised!

PM - The chicks must have swolled a packet of sugary treats. For a couple of hours, we watched as the chicks jumped, flew, pounced, gnawed and attacked everything in their paths. They found leaves to stomp on, and tables to attack. Teeny defended 'his / her' shoe from its siblings. The chick even went so far as to grab the shoe in its talons, and fly the length of the balcony with the shoe trailing.

Allan tried moving the camera to keep up with all the movement, but that proved a difficult task. Eventually, the excitement / hyperactivity wore off, and the chicks were soon overcome with tiredness. One of them lay down in the far pot plant, and Teeny dozed off on the pillar. Although they had been fed during this manic stage of theirs, the chicks weren't hissing for food like they normally do.

Indie and Jelani spent time on the rooftops with their parents, before Indie left for the night - probably to learn how to hunt with Pappa. When we went to sleep, Teeny was still on the middle pillar of the balcony.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday 12 November

Early morning: Teeny and Jelani are sitting with Pot Plant Owl when I wake this morning. I can see Pappa on the nearby rooftop, but I can't see Indie anywhere. Pot Plant Owl is looking relaxed and seems not to be worried about Indie. This is a good sign because it means that wherever Indie is, the parents know where to look after him / her.

Teeny and Jelanie have spent the morning resting in the nest. It is quite likely that Jelani will follow Indie in the next day or two, and leave Teeny on the balcony for another few days. Any day now, we will be saying goodbye to all of them.

Last night, Teeny flew from the balcony floor up to the pillar and balcony railing. Teeny made it all the way up there without crashing down. Well done Teeny! For most of the evening, Teeny chose to stand on the pillar on the far side of the balcony. We tried moving the camera to show you Teeny, but it is not well-lit so it was hard to see our Teeny.

Jelanie demonstrated great flying skills as it flew from balcony to rooftop, back to balcony again. Indie seemed to want to 'adventure' further as its name suggests, and spent most of the evening out of sight, occasionally popping up on the roof for a few moments.

Pot Plant Owl and Pappa had a tough time keeping track of their chicks. We were woken up by PPO's alarm call which sounded for a while, but didn't see anything unusual. Perhaps it was Mamma's instructions to Indie to keep close.

PM - We caught a glimpse of Indie in the early evening on a nearby roof. Indie was with Pappa, and looked quite well. As soon as it could, Jelanie took off to join Indie and Pappa, leaving Teeny on the balcony alone.

I knew it was going to happen by Teeny's body language. Teeny appeared frustrated at being alone, and anxious to join the rest of the family. Pot Plant Owl fed Teeny well, perhaps in an effort to distract Teeny. But our Teeny has a mind of its own (don't they all?), and had other things planned. Teeny opened its wings and gracefully exited the balcony. When Teeny landed in the neighbour's garden, that was the end of Teeny's graceful spell.

We watched Teeny flap, hop and jump on the grass. The garden only has grass - there are no trees, plants or shrubs. We waited to see if Teeny would be able to find its way onto the wall, and hopefully back into our garden, but the wall is too high at this stage (over double the height of the balcony pillar). For Teeny's safety, we took the decision to return Teeny quickly back to the nest. We picked Teeny up and quickly marched it back to the balcony, and put him / her down on the floor. A minute later, Teeny was back on the balcony pillar, calling for food. Pot Plant Owl came in with food. Moments after Teeny was back on the balcony, Indie flew to the neighbour's roof, so Teeny was happy again.

The next time Teeny flies off, which may well be tomorrow night, we won't return Teeny to the balcony. If Teeny lands in our garden or on our wall, we will just let Nature take its course. Our garden is quite safe, and there are lots of things Teeny can use to flap / climb onto to get more height. If Teeny lands in the neighbour's garden again, and can't get up to the wall, we will put Teeny on the wall, and again let Nature take its course from there.

The reason we brought Teeny back last night was based on watching Teeny's behaviour before the flight. Teeny was just trying to get to the family, rather than deciding that it wanted to explore the surroundings, and learn to fly. As you will see from the pictures we will post of Teeny now, Teeny is still quite small in comparision, and has done a lot less wing flapping and balcony hopping than the others. Fingers crossed that Teeny waits a few days before attempting it again.

We didn't see Indie before retiring this evening, but we are sure Indie is well and learning to hunt with Pappa.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pic - 11 Nov Indie


This is our Indie now - 11 Nov.

Pic - 11 Nov Jelani up close


Jelani now on 11 Nov

PM Wed 10 November

The chicks from last year loved playing with things. They walked into our open garage, and came out dragging an old rag we had for washing cars. For the better part of two days, the rag became a firm favourite with the three chicks who attacked it, chewed it, and played tug-of-war with it.

I mentioned this rag to the chat room viewers, who of course, wanted to see this playfulness for themselves. I found a rag and threw it onto the balcony floor. This rag caught the attention of Jelani immediately who flew down to the floor to investigate. Jelani attacked and pounced on the rag - it was hilarious!

Jelani and Indie both flew to the neighbour's roof, leaving Teeny alone on the balcony. When the older chicks got bored, they flew back and attacked the rag, and whatever else they could find on the balcony.

What I didn't appreciate this evening, was being hit by Pot Plant Owl! I was just about to step onto our patio when I received a whack on my shoulder blade. She flew in and hit me as a 'warning' not to come outside while her chicks were on the move in the immediate area. All fine and well if I wasn't in MY garden, and the chicks were on the neighbour's roof nowhere near me. Still, I'm glad she remains protective over her family.

Link to Save-the-Wetland Petition

I've been asked to please put the link for the Save-the-Wetland petition up again, so here it is:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/4/save-the-wetlands/

Thanks for all the support we've been receiving!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pic - After the destruction


The whole area was full of trees and reeds; animal and bird life. This is how it was cut down and left by the developer.
To date, 8 months later, none of the tree stumps have been treated. Severe soil erosion has occured. The wetland has been left in a mess.

Pic - The bulldozer starting up in the wetland

The bulldozer starts cutting the trees and vegetation down

Pic - What our wetland used to look like

This is a photograph to show you what the wetland used to look like. It is here that the owls find most of their food.

Pic - Aerial view of our area


This is an aerial view of our area - very built-up apart from the middle section which is the wetland we are trying to save.
You can see that there is no place for the owls or other creatures to go if the wetland is developed on.

Wednesday 10 November

04h30: PPO's alarm call wakes me, and I get up to do a head count and see if there is any obvious danger lurking nearby. Jelani has joined Teeny in the pot plant, and the two of them appear to be playing with each other. I can't see Indie anywhere, so I go outside to have a look. Eventually I find Indie sitting on a wall further up our complex. Pot Plant Owl's call was probably to tell Indie not to travel too far away. I went back to sleep for a short while.

When I woke up a couple of hours later, Indie was back in the pot plant nest, and the three chicks were dozing off. I didn't see Pappa or PPO.

Appearances: Our sweet chicks are 7-weeks old now, and looking so much like miniature adults now. The false ear tufts are growing larger by the day. Their feathers are rich in colour, and adult plumage has replaced most of the fluffy grey baby feathers. Height difference now is a centimetre or two - not much at all.
The biggest physical change is with our 'rehab' chick, Teeny. Teeny has doubled in size and stands almost as tall as Indie and Jelani. Teeny's face has darkened and is quite an expressive 'older looking' face.
Jelani still sports a black mask around its eyes, which is the only way I can tell it apart from Indie at a quick glance. Indie has a softer looking face - lighter in colour.

How long do we have left with 'our' owl family?
In the first year that the owls bred on our balcony, the chicks stayed here until they were 53 days old. Last year, the chicks were over 70 days old before they left (parents dragged then away by their ear tufts). The chicks are now approx 43 days old, so time is marching on for our family. Before long, the chicks will begin their new lives and we will not see them again.

Like many people now understand, having followed the owls' progress over the last few weeks, the time of letting go will be difficult. You've watched them open their eyes for the first time; learn how to flap wings and fly; play games; huddle down in thunderstorms; and what happens when they get sick. You've identified small characteristics that help you identify each chick. Hopefully you were involved in choosing their names too. And soon, we will all have to say goodbye and hope that everything runs smoothly for them, and Life treats them kindly.
Think about this and what these little owls mean to you now, as you watch the final stages of their development into adulthood. Every time you go onto the webcam now and the chicks are there, be grateful for the extra chance you have to 'spend time' with them.

This is what I am doing now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday 9 November

We have Internet and the Webcam is live again!!!

It is with great relief that I write this bit of news. We've been tearing our hair out for days now, trying to get our ISP to fix their problem. Everything in Africa is slow, but this was really tiresome. Still, it's running now so we can't complain.

We had rain showers for most of the morning. After Teeny's antics on the balcony pillar and the railing last night, we were relieved to find him / her sitting with Indie and Jelani in the nest this morning. I had visions of having to go out in the rain to find a missing chick. Thankfully, this was not the case. "Good chicks!"

Allan and I do a number of talks about the owls at various places. This morning we spent a few hours with the members of the Cornelian Society in Bryanston. I must tell you what a treat it was to spend some time with the Cornelians at their 50th Annual General Meeting.

The Cornelian Society, and I quote, "seeks to provide a forum for lectures by experts that are not just interesting and entertaining but also intellectually stimulating and challenging - covering a wide range of topics."
I'm not sure exactly where we fit in the above definition - probably entertaining (because everyone loved the stories of when we've been hit on the head by the owls!). I found the whole morning utterly fascinating, and walked away intellectually stimulated by the members themselves. It's not often that one has the opportunity to sit next to a 90-year-young person that has lived in many countries around the world, and has rubbed shoulders with Barons, Countesses and the likes, and who says at the end how delighted they are to have listened to our talk and met us. Really, it was quite special.

6pm Central African Time: Jelani's the first to explore the balcony floor. Indie and Jelani are still huddled together in the pot plant nest. The chicks are still wet from the rain, which I think provided some welcome relief from the hot days we've been having.

Later on: There's just no stopping Indie! Our explorer took a solo flight across the driveways separating us from our neighbours, and landed on the top of the neighbour's roof. There Indie sat, wating for food - the King / Queen of the Castle. Both parents fed Indie on the roof, which was lovely to witness. A small thunderstorm came and went with Indie remaining on the rooftop, content enough to wait for the storm to pass over.

Jelani and Teeny had other plans - thankfully, the balcony was the chosen playground for the evening. Teeny was camera shy this evening, spending most of the time on the pillar behind the nest tree. Jelani moved frequently - from the pot to the railing to the pillar, down to the balcony floor, and back up again.

Pot Plant Owl and Pappa fed Teeny many tasty bits. Poor Jelani was left out a number of occasions until it eventually stood right next to Teeny in the hope of getting the next incoming meal. Rest assured though: the parents did feed Jelani eventually, so Jelani stopped hissing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pic Sun 7 Nov Reunion

Jelani and Indie's reunion. This is our wall where the chicks play and get fed. Behind is Pot Plant Owl's favourite hunting perch - the telephone pole. To the right of the pole, is the wetland where the owls hunt.

Pic Sun 7 Nov Jelani on patio floor

Jelani on our patio floor right by our open lounge door. We thought Jelani would walk in, but it turned its attention to the garden instead.

Pic Sat 7 Nov - PPO brings food for Jelani


Mom arrives with food for Jelani - a tasty king cricket

Pic - Sat 6 Nov Indie on pillar

This is the view from the other side of the nest - the pillar that the chicks love by the nest.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monday 8 November

All chicks are back on the balcony! We woke this morning to find Teeny sitting with Indie, and Jelani sitting in the far pot plant. The family look quite relaxed and happy. I bet Jelani is pleased not to be hanging around the patio area by itself anymore.

We chased up our internet service provider this morning to find out when our line will be back again, so we can commence with the live webcam streaming. Apparently, the fault is a computer error on their side. It has been red-flagged so hopefully it will be sorted out some time today. Fingers crossed- this is African after all.

Please remember to spread the word about our Save-the-Wetland petition. The link to sign the petition is on the blog page of the same name posted last week.

It was Teeny's night to explore the balcony pillar by the nest. Once up on the pillar, Teeny sat there with Indie. Teeny spent most of the evening looking out - quite still and settled on the pillar. Just as we were going to sleep, Teeny decided to be more adventurous and walk along the balustrading. The railing is much thinner, and Teeny of course hasn't had the experience of balancing a lot like the other two chicks have. Thankfully, Teeny decided after a few minutes to go back to the wider pillar, and I could think about going to sleep again.

Indie and Jelani spent their time jostling for prime position on the three balcony pillars. Pot Plant Owl and Pappa couldn't keep up with the constant movement and position shift, and eventually flew in with a big rat, and left it on the balcony floor. Instantly, both chicks forgot about the prime location 'fight' and flew to the floor to eat. Amicably, they shared the food - tearing off strips and swallowing the food.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday 07 November

03h30 Central African Time. Indie is back on the balcony! We are up early, and looked onto the balcony. Teeny's in the pot, and one chick on the pillar behind the nest tree. We rush downstairs to see who is still in the garden/roof, and see Jelani still above the braai area on the patio. Its amazing that Indie made it all the way back to the balcony on the first night out. Way to go Indie!

18h00 Central African Time: Indie wastes no time in jumping onto the balcony railing. It seems Indie is scouting for a new area to explore tonight - let's hope our chick remains in the immediate area. Teeny spent a short time on the owl box roof this afternoon, and played with its shoe for a bit too. Then Teeny got back in the nest where it is waiting for food, glorious food.

Jelani is in the mood for an adventure tonight. One minute Jelani was by the braai, the next minute it was on the patio floor, a few metres from our open lounge room door. We froze as Jelani landed a few feet from us, and casually peered inside. For a second, I thought Jelani was going to walk right in, but the chick turned its attention to the garden instead. Jelani flew onto the grass and began the funny walk / run we've seen it do on the balcony floor. Jelani ran the length of the garden and found a bird bath amongst the bushes. The chick hopped onto the bird bath, and stood there for a bit, before jumping straight into the flower bed behhing. "I'm going to have some fun tonight!" it seemed to say.

After playing for a while, Jelani turns its attention to our wall. Jelani spreads its wings and confidently flies the length of the garden again, and up to the wall. As soon as Jelani lands on the wall, the excitement becomes too much for Indie, who flies straight down to join its sibling on the wall.

We watch a funny and touching reunion between Jelani and Indie, who have been separated for a few days. They jump on top and over one another, and play together as the sun sets behind them. Allan took pictures which will be uploaded shortly.

Teeny continued making the biggest noise I've heard from that little body. Teeny wanted food, and lots of it. Despite being well-fed last night, I think Teeny needs extra food for a growth spurt it seems to be having.

Botth parents feed the chicks - two on the wall, and Teeny in the nest. Later in the evening when we do our usual head-count, we findd Indie still on the wall, Teeny in the pot,and Jelani back by the braai. Perhaps the braai area is a comfort zone for Jelani now?

Indie's First Flight 06 November

In the early evening, we watched as Indie took up its usual position on the pillar behind the nest pot plant. Teeny snoozed in the nest. Jelani stood on one leg by the braai/BBQ area. We went inside to fetch something. We were gone for not even 2 minutes, and when we returned, Indie was no-where to be found. Teeny sat calmly in the pot plant, waiting for food. By PPO's movements, we found Indie standing on the neighbour's balcony pillar - the same flight distance as Jelani's first flight. A tremendous feat! Jelani stayed right by the braai area on the patio. I almost got hit on the head by PPO for being in the garden - a warning to keep away. We fell asleep with the chicks in 3 different areas.

Saturday 6 Nov

We woke up to Pot Plant Owl's alarm call, and rushed out of bed to look. Two cats were innocently walking near the driveway, but obviously this was too close for mom's liking. The cats quickly scampered.

Like in previous years when the chicks left the balcony and couldn't get back up, Jelani sits on the braai (BBQ) area below the balcony. Jelani appears quite content and by 8am, was fast asleep lying on its belly on the wall. It looked very cute.

Both Teeny and Indie snuggled together in the nest. It seems like Indie has grown overnight and is looking so much like an adult owl now. There is very little difference in height between PPO and Indie, as I discovered when Indie stood up next to its mom in the nest. Indie is also developing a 'cheeky' personality - knocking Teeny out the way, or biting mom's tail. No-one is harmed, but if owls can get irritated, I'm sure both Teeny and PPO are getting there.

It was Guy Fawkes Night last night - my worst time of the year. The fireworks every year send many pets, animals and birds into frenzies, trying to escape the noise. Thankfully, in our area this year, there were were very fire crackers lit. And 'our' owl family didn't seem too bothered by the noise. I wish they would do away with Guy Fawkes Day - I really do.

Other than the above, not much else new to report on the babies. Our Internet problem MAY be sorted out todday, but it is more likely on Monday or Tuesday. Please bear with us and keep checking in. Thankfully, using the cell phone allows me to update this blog, but it won't hold streaming a live webcam.

Will update with pics later.

PM Friday 5 Nov

The rest of the evening has passed by uneventfully. Jelani flew across from our perimeter wall to the neighbour's wall. The distance is approx 8 metres along a horizontal path, and Jelani managed it perfectly. For the remainder of the evening, Jelani stood on the wall -occasionally walking from one side to the other. Pappa flew in and fed Jelani while Pot Plant Owl did the food drops to the nest.

Teeny didn't leave the nest all evening until we went to sleep. The nest provides a perfect view if the gardens and Jelani below, so Teeny was quite happy to sit and watch. Teeny's eye is looking good - I saw Teeny this afternoon keeping its one eye closed, but there is nothing wrong with it.

Indie spent the night hopping between the pillar by the nest and the railing. Indie is definitely looking like any day now, it will take off.

There was a lot of hooting from both parents, and Pappa remained in the area for most of the early part of the evening.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Please accept our sincere apologies for the unforseen circumstances. Our internet provider has a problem and we have been advised that it should be fixed early next week! We will be regularly updating the blogg and putting pictures on but no live camera for a while!!

07.00 pm Friday 5/11/10.

Quick update - All chicks are good. Jelani is still on the braai and is being fed by both parents! Teeny is on the owl box roof crying for food as usual! Indie is on the balcony pillar looking quite content. Mom is feeding everyone now and it looks like its going to be a quiet evening with hopefully not too much activity. Will do more regular updates on Usteam chat room even without videos.

Thanks very much!! Will be in touch soon!

Pic - 5 Nov Jelani's new roosting spot


05h30 Central African Time: Jelani settling down on the ledge by our braai (BBQ) area. In past years, the chicks have made us of the pot plant container to the right of the picture.

Friday 5 November

Pot Plant Owl has an alarm call, that sounds like a high-pitched 'whoop'. In the early hours of this morning, we hear Pot Plant Owl's alarm call, and get up to investigate. It turns out to be nothing (that we can see, anyway), so we got back to sleep.

Up again at 04h30 to look for Jelani and make sure it is in a safe spot for the day. We find Jelani on our braai area (BBQ area) below the balcony on the patio. Jelani scrambled up and made it all the way to the balcony, but it was on the wrong side of the netting around the balcony balustrading, so it dropped back down to the braai. Immediately, we went out onto the balcony under an umbrella, and took the netting off the balustrading on the side near Jelani. If/ when Jelani attempts it again, he/ she will be able to squeeze through the bars and get onto the balcony.

08h00 Central African Time: Indie and Teeny sit happily together in the pot, with mom. Jelani is safe, tucked away on the patio below.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pic - 4 Nov The three chicks united

Our three chicks - on front, Teeny, behind Teeny is Jelani (with the mask), and Indie is at the back.

Thursday 4 November

What a sight! Three 'not-so-little' chicks huddled together in the nest, when I woke up. Shortly afterwards, Pot Plant Owl joined her chicks - sitting on the lip of the pot. Perhaps we could coax Pappa onto the balcony for a short time to get the perfect family portrait, but that is wishful thinking for sure.

A big thank you to all of you who have signed our Save-the-Wetland petition. We are only at less than 10% of the total number of signatures required, so please spread the word.

PM - Jelani's First Flight
We knew it was going to happen soon, but we didn't expect it to happen as well as it did. In the early evening, Jelani and Indie flapped up to the pillar behind the nest tree and stood together. Teeny remained in the pot.

Without warning, Jelani just took off - and flew. Flew across our garden, around the tall trees and straight to a small roof over the neighbour's front door. This is the third year we've watched chicks in our garden, and this is the first time that any chick has managed such a feat. Usually, the first flight is anything but spectacular - often a half-flying, half-crash landing effect a few feet away. Jelani's flight was truly impressive!

Not content with only showing off its flying skills, Jelani now attempted to 'climb / flap' up the wall. Directly above the roof where Jelani landed, is an air-con unit. Above that, is a satellite dish. Jelani got up to the air-con unit, rested a bit, and then got up to the satellite dish. The final hurdle was a 6-foot climb to the top of the roof, where Pot Plant Owl was standing watching her chick.

With every ounce of effort it could muster, Jelani manouvered like a mountain climber up the wall, using its talons and beak, and flapping its wings. Jelani rested for what seemed like ages, but have only have been 30 seconds or so, hanging onto the wall with its talons and beak. About a foot before the top, Jelani fell down onto the air-con unit below with a crash.

For a few seconds, there was no movement. Eventually, Jelani stood back up and moments later attempted the same thing again- to be met with the same fate. After two attempts, Jelani called it quits and moved onto the wall in our garden. There Jelani remained until we fell asleep. Jelani was well-fed by both parents, and was safe on the wall. The wall spot is popular with our first-time-flying chicks, because it gives them a good view of the balcony above, and allows the chicks a chance to see the neighbourhood without feeling vulnerable on the ground.

While all this was happening, Indie stood on the balcony pillar, periodically flapping wings furiously. Teeny was as good-as-gold and remained in the nest pot, also practising wing flaps. Both chicks had a number of meals brought to them.

Think for a second what it's like to be an owl parent now, like Pot Plant Owl and Pappa. They have to continue feeding all chicks, monitor Jelani's movements, hunt close enough to keep everything in sight, and protect the area, especially around Jelani. If they stop feeding for a while, the other two on the balcony might get restless and fly off too. And all of this is taking place in suburbia - cars driving past, people arriving home, dogs outside in gardens barking, and lots of other human movement and activity. This human activity probably actioned with a lot of noise, that will chase any rodents away, and force insects to hide - this in turn, making it harder for mom and dad to hunt close by.

I tell you, Life is not exactly easy for these owls.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pic - 3 Nov Jelani in far pot plant


Jelani in far pot plant

Pic - 3 Nov 17h30 Indie resting in nest


17h30 Look how cute our little Indie is - sleeping, but keeping a watchful eye open

Pic - 2 Nov Jelani on far pillar


Jelani looking out over the wetland area with the fallen trees. Jelani spends a lot of time on this pillar at night. The pillar is out of camera view most of the time

Pic - 2 Nov Parents feeding Jelani on pillar behind nest tree


Parents feeding Jelani on the balcony pillar behind the nest tree

Wednesday 3 November

In the early hours of this morning, I woke to find Teeny sitting back on its owl box roof. When Teeny saw me peering at him /her from the window, Teeny looked up at me and began head -bopping and hissing as if to say "Come on then, your turn to feed me". Little precious.

Jelani and Chick 2 were diligently standing in the pot plant nest, as if to say "Look how good we are. We wouldn't do anything wrong!"

Pot Plant Owl sat with her chicks on the lip of the pot, for a few hours. Teeny moved off the owl box roof (didnt see the exit so can't comment on how gracefully it was executed), and went inside the owl box to sleep.

Midday: WE HAVE A NAME FOR CHICK 2!
Thanks to all of you who voted for our Chick 2. The name chosen is Indie (The Adventurer - like Indiana Jones). Welcome to the Family, Indie!

PM:
Another highlight of the day came in the early evening. While Allan and I were out, our dear Teeny took a very brave, big step.

Teeny began its journey of discovery on the balcony floor, edging closer to the wooden perch that reaches down near the nest pot plant. With baited breath, viewers on the webcam watched as Teeny took a few steps up the wooden perch. Teeny paused to contemplate and decide its next move, before taking another step up the perch. And then....

You'll just have to watch the video link, sent me me by Renee - Thank You!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kFTX6L90ZO

We were thrilled to find Teeny happily sitting in the nest again, when we returned home. I knew Teeny would learn how to get back up to the nest, but it's always gratifying to see a successful lesson learned.

All three chicks are making progress in leaps and bounds. Confidence is growing. Wing flapping and short flights are increasing. Excitement is mounting for that first venture off the balcony. Who will be the first to take the plunge? Will the second one immediately follow, or will it remain on the balcony to watch how its sibling does? Will Jelani and Indie wait for Teeny? How long before Teeny catches up to these other two, and starts proper flying?

You'll have to keep following to find out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pic - Our final Chick 2


This is our dear chick that is still waiting for you to vote for his / her name. You can still vote on Africam now so please do it.
See how this chick doesn't have the black mask around its face (yet) like Jelani does. Hopefully you can identify each chick now.
Photo courtesy of our friend Charmaine Rowland, who says she is available for autograph signing too - lol

Pic - Our Biggest Chick - Jelani "The Mighty One"

This is our biggest chicks - Jelani "The Mighty One". Notice how Jelani has darker mask around the eyes. Jelani is the one who loves joining mom in the far pot plant, and going onto the far pillar.

Welcome Jelani!

Photo courtesy of our friend Charmaine Rowland

Tuesday 2 November

Africam's naming competition is drawing to a close. Later today, we will get the second name, with hopefully the final name tommorow. I'll be quite relieved when we know the other two names, because I do feel sorry for our bigger chicks. "Chick 1" and "Chick 2" are really not descriptive, nor do these nicknames do the chicks' any justice.

Just before the naming competition began, the two chicks looked quite different. One chick had a much darker face; the other a distinguishable white chin. Over the last week, both chicks have changed features and are now looking much more similar to one another. So for those that are confused: "Chick 1" is the chick that goes walk-about more and will choose the far pot plant to sit with its mom. His / her name will be posted on the Africam website shortly.

Teeny was very cute this morning. The other chicks were preening in the nest pot plant, while Mom watched them from the lip of the pot. Not wanting to miss out on the action, Teeny came and sat on his / her tail feathers at the base of the pot plant. Both feet were in front of its body and slightly off the ground, and it was dozing off.

PM - What a treat! for anyone that missed tonight's antics, all I can say is, keep your eyes peeled to this webcam. If you blink or grab a coffee, you may miss something cute, spectacular, funny, or adventurous.

It began with Jelani. Before the sun set, Jelani was up on the perch around the pot, 'flexing' its wings and getting ready for the night. With a quick flap / hop combo, Jelani was up on the pillar behind the nest tree.

Teeny was the next one to explore. For a while Teeny ran around the balcony floor, and the next minute we saw Teeny standing on top of the owl box roof! First time ever for Teeny to make it up to another level. Teeny stood there looking ever so pleased with him / her self, and rightly so.
Both parents came in with lots of food for Teeny. Our webcam viewers were spoilt with great fly-ins from the parents, and Teeny eating and balancing on the roof at the same time.

After the 4th or 5th food delivery to Teeny, chick 2 had enough and decided that sitting in the nest patiently waiting wasn't going to get it fed. So chick 2 moved out of the nest, closer to Teeny.

Pot Plant Owl flew in with something sizeable, and the next minute, all three chicks flew across and down to the balcony floor to eat. Mom stripped pieces, and each chick got something to eat. It was incredible to watch!

The evening continued with all three chicks changing positions, exercising their wings and investigating their territory.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Please Help Save the Wetland

As many of you may know, our owl family hunt in a nearby wetland that is on the verge of being turned into another residential complex. While laws in South Africa prevent developments on wetlands, it seems some developers are able to swing decisions to develop on wetlands in their favour.

I will post some BEFORE and AFTER pictures showing you what the wetland looked like before a developer's bulldozer arrived in Jan 2010 to cut down the trees. Alien trees were cut, but stumps left untreated. Felled trees were left in the river bed, and right in the most sensitive area of the wetland. Severe erosion is taking place and it is looking terrible.

The developer plans to continue his application to develop on this wetland, even though he is in receipt of a wetland study delineating over 70% of the site as wetland. We have to put a stop to the development in the wetland. If we don't stop the development in the wetland, our owls will leave because there will be no place for them to hunt.

You can help by signing a petition.

The petition will be given to the MEC for the Gauteng Department of Rural and Agricultural Development MEC, Nandi Mayathula-khoza, who, in Feb 2010 at a ceremony for "International Wetland Week" pledged to "turn down all applications for development on wetlands". It appears that her Department, however, are in favour of the application.

The link for this petition is:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/4/save-the-wetlands/

Anyone can sign, and we encourage you to tell your friends, family and clubs / society members to sign. We can't allow our owls, and all the inhabitants of the wetland to be displaced.

Any questions, or for more information, please email me directly.

Thanks for your support!

Pic -31 Oct Teeny on the floor by the base of the nest

Teeny on the floor by the wooden perches, looking not-so-teeny.
Photo courtesy of our friend Charmaine Rowland

Pic - 31 Oct - Two chicks on pillar

Our two explorer chicks sharing the middle balcony pillar, looking down at Teeny
Photo courtesy of our friend Charmaine Rowland

Pic - 31 Oct activity


"I'm so cute!"
Sitting in far pot plant in the late afternoon
Photo courtesy of my friend Charmaine Rowland

Picture - Sun 31 Oct night activity


Pot Plant Owl feeding her chick a king cricket on the middle balcony pillar.
Photo courtesy of our friend, Charmaine Rowland

Monday 1 November

I slept right the way through until my usual waking, and still found all three chicks on the balcony. Just goes to show that 'human mom' (me) can actually have a full nights rest.

The two bigger chicks in the nest pot plant and Teeny on the floor by his / her owl box. Pot Plant Owl sits on the lip of the pot plant, dozing off.

3pm Central African Time: We've moved the camera angle now for a short time. The 2 chicks jumped out the nest and went to the balcony floor. Pot Plant Owl was in the far pot plant, dozing. Teeny was in the owl box on the floor; chick 2 next to Teeny in the sun (not sure why No.2 decides to sleep in the sun..). Chick 1 saw mom and went and joined her in th far pot plant. The camera view now is of PPO and Chick 1 in the far pot plant. The pot plant is exactly the same size as the nest pot plant - just on the opposite end of our balcony.

And we have our first confirmed result in Africam's Name-the-Chicks Competition. The chosen name for our "Rehab" Chick is ....Teeny! Thanks to all who voted, and thanks to those people whose names were selected for the shortlist. They were all lovely names.

PM - For Highveld standards (where Johannesburg is situated), we experienced a moderate storm tonight. Winds howled and lightning flashed across the sky. There was quite a bit of thunder and activity, but not a lot of rain. Our three chicks braved tonight's storm very well. Teeny was the most sensible of the lot - tucking him / herself in the owl box. The other two chicks huddled together in the nest pot plant. Pot Plant Owl stood guard by the nest - her talons gripping the side of the pot as she clung on, fighting the wind.

Thankfully, the storm didnt last long, and soon all the chicks were back to their 'balcony antics'. Teeny again tried the wooden perch, but gave it up before reaching the top. As quick as a flash after the storm passed, the other two flew to the balcony pillars and sat looking out the night sky.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday 31 October

Early hours of the morning -Central African Time: I woke a few times to Mom's alarm call - a high-pitched "Whooping" sound. I looked outside and found nothing obviously threatening in the area. I think Pot Plant Owl sounded her alarm call when the explorer wanted to do something she didnt want it to do, but I can't be sure.

Pappa was incredibly vocal. He has a magnificent loud hoot that echoes across the wetland in the wee hours of morning. There may have been other Spotted Eagle Owls in the area, because Pappa was really letting everyone know that this was HIS territory. You have to take your hat off to Pappa. He does all the back-stage work to make the show run smoothly. He hunts, he defends the territory, he watches over the nest during the day, and he gets very little credit. In come the chicks, and to a lesser extent now, Pot Plant Owl, and they are the stars of the show. They steal the show, and people forget about Pappa. So Pappa, here's looking at you! I salute you and your tireless work for your family. Well done!

Each time I woke up early this morning, I did the usual head counting of chicks to make sure they were all there. On one occasion, I saw Teeny standing over 'his / her' shoe - wings outstretched, body low to the ground and snapping its beak at it sibling. The sibling attempted to play with the shoe too - something Teeny strongly objected to. All three chicks were on the ground, and in the pitch darkness, it was hard to see who Teeny was reprimanding. Despite the size difference, the other chick backed off and left Teeny to play with the shoe. It was too delightful to watch!

This morning, the bigger chicks are sleeping in the nest pot plant together. Teeny is on the floor on the side of the pot plant container - out of view of the camera. All look well-fed and happy. Pot Plant Owl dozes in the far pot plant - looking as tired as I feel this morning.

I think I might have to take a nap.

PM - What fantastic viewing! Our friends came to visit (the owls of course, not us) and took quite a few pictures of the action. No1 and No2 got flew up to the middle pillar, and both stood there. Both parents flew in with a lot of food for them. At one stage, Pot Plant Owl flew in with food and accidently knocked one chick off the pillar. It tried using its sharp beak and talons to hold onto the bricks as it slid down, but it couldnt hold on. It ended up on the balcony floor -a little confused, but otherwise unharmed.

Teeny was well-fed, and even tried a bit of exploration itself. Teeny managed to get halfway up the wooden perch from the floor, but decided against going all the way up to the top. Instead Teeny spent quite a bit of time on his /her shoe - fast becoming a favourite!

Going to upload pics now of the excitement!

SPECIAL POST - OUR ROLES IN THIS NESTING PERIOD

Allan and I so look forward to the arrival of Pot Plant Owl each year to lay her eggs. Nothing is more exciting than that first day she is back, when we open the curtains to find a beautiful owl sitting once again in our pot plant -a sure sign she is ready to lay her eggs.

We realise it is a privilege to have these exquisite owls in such proximity -a privilege we don't take lightly. With this privilege comes responsibilities - to educate and inform people about their choices that impact negatively on wildlife in general eg rodent control; to create awareness about the plight of owls in suburban areas where humans destroy their habitats; and a certain level of responsibility to the owls themselves.

Weeks prior to the new breeding season, we ready the balcony for the owls. We put shadecloth up around the railing. This prevents the chicks from falling two storeys down, and it offers some sun protection and protection from hail. We put up wooden perches around the side of the pot plant - this gives the parents perches to use when bringing in food for the chicks. We clear away our outdoor chairs and umbrellas from the area, so that none of the items can fall and injure any owl in a bad storm.

As soon as Pot Plant Owl arrives, we set up a 'hide' in our bedroom. The glass sliding door between our bedroom and the balcony is covered with cardboard. Curtains are permanently closed. We even pin darker material on our light curtains to ensure the owls don't constantly see our silhouettes in the room.

If a small chick falls out the nest onto the balcony floor, we push out our parrots' jungle gym which has smaller perches, that are lower to the ground, in order to assist the chick in getting back up to the nest on its own.

This is the limit of our responsibility / 'interference' with the owls. Short of stepping in when a chick falls off the balcony and hides under a wheel of a car (in imminent danger in a human environment), or one of the owls is obviously seriously injured or sick (like Teeny), this is all we will do to assist the owls.

Even though you are viewing these owls in a suburban environment, they are WILD owls. We do not feed them. We do not pet them. We do not cuddle them or tame them. It is both illegal and irresponsible to interfere further.

Our aim in making a webcam available in the breeding period, is to educate viewers on these Spotted Eagle Owls: to show what the owls experience when they are in their natural habitat - storms, first flight, falling out nests, preening and so forth.

It is extremely hard for me to do nothing to help the chicks in a bad hail storm, or when a small chick like Teeny falls out the nest and can't get back in.

But this is Nature, and it is all part of their learning experiences. We've done what we can to make the balcony safe. Now we have to let Nature take its course.

Teeny will find its way back up to the nest - sooner or later. Until then, Teeny is making use of the owl box on the balcony floor, that has been standing empty for 3 years. It offers shade and protection from the elements.

We hope that by watching the webcam / reading the blog, you have a greater appreciation / awareness for these magnificent birds of prey.

Pic - Mom and Little Explorer in far pot plant

"Look how clever I am!"
Our little explorer with Pot Plant Owl in the far pot plant. Behind is the wetland we are trying to save.
Read blog date Fri 29 Oct for full details of this chick's antics.

Saturday 30 October

An early start for us this morning, and a quick head count before heading out for a run. All three chicks were on the balcony - two in the pot, and Teeny tucked away in its very own spacious owl box on the floor. I'm glad to see that this owl box is finally coming to good use - very clever, our Teeny!

Today is the day the shortlist of names comes out for our middle chick. Africam will have the link up sometime mid afternoon Central African Time. Please show you care about the chicks, and give them each a proper name. Chick 1 and chick 2 don't flatter their sweet personalities.

I've been asked by a few people whether the parents still feed the chicks when they are not in the nest - like Teeny now that is on the balcony floor. The answer is a definite yes. Both parents fly in with food, find each chick (if like last night they are in different areas) and feed them in turn.

Coming back from our run just now, I see Teeny has moved to behind the pot plant so he / she can get a good view of the garden below. The other two are enjoying the extra space in the pot plant, and stretching out and sleeping.

Another glorious sunny day here - we're heading out into the garden to enjoy it too.

PM - Explorer back again before the sun sets with Pot Plant Owl (Mom) in the far pot. She turns a blind eye to what I can only describe as a bit of "bad behaviour". As soon as she leaves, little Explorer feels he/ she is given license to have free reign and do what he/ she wants. Hop onto the balcony pillar, and then sit there with a smug look on face. "You can't stop me!"

Teeny explores every inch of the balcony floor, and seems neither distressed nor bored. It was Teeny who first discovered Allan's shoe lying near the owl box - tempting little Teeny to take a closer look.

Teeny thinks: "Hmm, looks like something I can eat. Let me try" as Teeny jumps on shoe and gnaws at it.
"No, maybe I can play with this thing" as Teeny stands on the shoe grabbing onto the leather strap with its teak.
Later on, when one of the other chicks came down to the balcony floor, Teeny very definitely conveyed "Get away from MY shoe!" as Teeny spread its wings over the shoe and snapped at its sibling. Really too cute to watch.

No.2 sitting in the pot was the last to be fed tonight, and we were all getting quite anxious about the feeding. Not that we don't trust that the parents will feed No.2 because they have proven time and time again what good parents they are. It was because the stress No.2 felt in seeing the others, especially Teeny, get lots of food, was palpable. There was a bit of cheering when No.2's anxiety subsided as it tucked into a sizeable bite.

Just after signing off from the chat room, our area had a power cut. While we have a GPS for the camera, we had no lights on the balcony to light it enough for streaming. Really sorry if this inconvenienced anyone, but this was out of our control. Next time, I'll stand there all night with a torch shining on the chicks, okay? Just kidding!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Picture - Teeny on balcony floor Fri 29 Oct

You can just see our little Teeny poking its head up from behind the owl box on the balcony floor.
The owl box is situated to the left of your webcam viewing screen.

Teeny is happy and well, and Pot Plant Owl is keeping watch over him.