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!


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.

Friday 29 October

3am: Wake up and do a quick head count on the balcony. All are there and parents are in the area to feed them. With everything calm and peaceful, I drift back to sleep easily.

A more respectable time to wake up: Teeny is not in the pot. At first I couldn't find Teeny, but eventually I spotted him / her pushed up against a barbet's log we have near the owl box. We keep offering the owl box and for some reason, 'our' owls don't want to know!

By lunchtime, Teeny begame restless and went to the pot to find a way up. It still can't get the hang of the wooden perches and the parrot jungly gym with smaller perches to get up. Teeny eventually walked the length of the balcony, and plonked itself face-flat on the floor next to the far pot. Pot Plant Owl was getting some rest in that far pot plant, and I think Teeny just wanted to be close to its mom.

Don't forget to vote for the chicks' names on the website. The Biggest chick's shortlist of names should be up today. The link to name the chicks is:

3pm Central African time: Our little 'rehab' chick, Teeny, is sleeping in the owl box on the balcony floor. This is the first time that the owl box has been properly used. It looks very cute lying in there - under shade and spread out.

PM - Like typical children, the chicks are now wanting to push the boundaries and see what they are allowed to get away with. With Teeny sleeping face-down in the owl box, and other sibling sitting sweetly in the nest pot plant, one little explorer decided to join Pot Plant Owl in the far pot plant. With surprising dexterity, this chick 'flew' straight up from the floor to the lip of the pot, and landed next to mom, looking ever so pleased with itself. Pot Plant Owl watched with one eye, and ignored her chick. Moments later, she flew away to the nearby roof.

Not content with just sitting in a new pot plant, little explorer clamboured up to the far balcony pillar. It stood there - again with a smug expression on its face - looking out towards the wetland, and the owls' hunting ground. Occasionally, it opened its wings and flapped them furiously, almost losing its balance in the process. I, of course, was not amused by its antics. Many people watching joined me in mentally willing our Columbus to 'get back in the pot'. It was only when food was delivered that the pull towards the balcony floor and finally the nest pot plant proved too much for this chick. Eventually it flapped back up to the nest, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

While this was happening, Teeny had been hissing so loudly for food, that I thought throat lozengers might have to be thrown down to him / her. Pot Plant Owl and Pappa worked tirelessly for a while, bringing in lots of food for each chick. We had to move the camera a few times to give viewers a chance to see what we were watching from here.

Eventually, all was calm on the home front, and we bade our owl family goodnight. We left the chicks looking 'well-rounded', sleepy and content.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday 28 October

3:30am Central African Time: I woke up to wind howling again, and had to shut windows. No sooner had I done that, then the rain came pelting down. Poor chicks looked miserable pressed together in the nest. No sign of the parents anywhere. I went back to sleep, knowing that the chicks would at least be safe - albeit drenched - staying in the pot plant.

By mid-morning, the sun was out, and the chicks with their mother, preened and dried their feathers.

THE VOTING FOR NAMES COMPETITION IS ON!! Go to Africam's website to cast your vote today for our "Rehab" Chick. - middle of the page you will see the link to the voting page

Tomorrow, the list of names will come out for the middle chick. On Saturday, the final list of names will be out for the big chick.

If you like a name, even if you think it is already a 'given', please vote.

PM - For a short while this evening, I watched #2 chick standing on the balcony pillar, staring down at me. It snapped its beak a couple of times, and then began immitating me when I did their 'head bopping' trick. It was very funny to see!

Teeny fell out the nest. In his / her rush to get to Mom and food, Teeny was a little over zealous, and toppled out the nest. Unhurt (perhaps its pride was wounded), Teeny then proceeded to explore the balcony floor. There are lots of interesting, new and exciting things in the area, and Teeny took a good look around. Eventually though, Teeny got a little weary and perhaps a bit scared, when the realisation came that unless it could figure out a way to get back to the nest, it was stuck on the floor.

Thankfully tonight was clear with no winds or rain. The other two stayed in the pot most of the time, except when they wanted to stretch their wings and show off on the balcony floor for a bit.

Both parents kept feeding Teeny on the floor, and the other two in the pot. Pot Plant Owl tried to coax Teeny into using the parrot jungle gym as a stepping stone to get up to the nest, but when I was watching, Teeny didn't try it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wednesday 27 October

5am Central African Time: I wake up in time to see the middle chick deftly flap / hop up onto a wooden perch that is around the lip of the pot container. It hopped back into the nest to join the waiting Teeny, with an expression on its face that read "Oh-I'm-so-clever!".

Pot Plant Owl was watching the scene, and I think willing the other chick to give it a try. It all became too much for the chick on the balcony. With a little distressed call, it scurried into a corner by the side of the pot, where it is currently hiding.

6:30am Central African Time: Pot Plant Owl left the balcony and within two minutes, we quickly moved the table back to the window, and put our parrot's jungle gym on the floor by the wooden perches. The chicks can use this jungle gym as a stepping stone to get to / from the wooden perches. The first clutch used the jungle gym and used to eat the wood and practise balancing on it.

One chick spent all the day on the balcony floor - its choice of roosting spot tucked away between the side of the pot and the railing. Early evening, the chick ventured out and eventually made its own way back up to the nest using the wooden perches.

Nightfall came quickly, and with it, a new zest for exploration. One of the chicks made it onto the balcony pillar behind the tree, and stayed there for a while until food was brought it. At the mere sight of the food, it jumped back in the nest.

It was just moments later when a fierce storm hit. The tree in the pot was blowing around, and all three chicks huddled closely together. There was a lot of thunder and lightning, but little rain. During the storm, Pot Plant Owl and Pappa were sheltering - probably in trees nearby. As soon as the storm subsided, the food relay began, and our little adventurer climbed back up to the balcony pillar.

Just before going to bed, I noticed another huge storm in the distance, and the little adventurer still on the pillar. I watched while the chick stood quietly on the pillar, gazing out over what is left of the wetland we are trying to save. Pot Plant Owl flew in with a rat (which must have been irresistable) and the chick again joined its siblings.

1st Exploration Day 26 October

Tonight's the night for exploring - first one chick, and then the other. The two chicks stood on the lip of the pot, flapping their wings. Then they took off, hopping / flapping onto the balcony floor. Teeny remained behind in the nest.

The explorers spent the evening on the balcony floor. With a mixture of bewilderment and excitement, the two chicks took in their new environment. One chick, the middle one with the white chin, flew onto the roof of the owl box we have on the floor. It sat on the roof for most of the evening - watching everything around him / her. The bigger chick tried unsuccessfully to jump / hop onto the wooden perches we have put up around the sides of the pot. Had it used the one perch that goes all the way down to the floor like a ladder, it would have got back up to the nest.

While this was happening, Teeny remained alone in the nest. Both parents flew in with food and alternated feeding Teeny, and the two explorers. At one stage, Pappa flew in with a big rat, tore strips of meat, and gave each chick a piece.

Pappa and Pot Plant Owl were very vocal for the first hour that the explorers were on the floor. There was little hunting done, and one parent remained on constant alert at all times. Eventually, both parents settled down when the chicks were calmer, and the parents moved further away.

Pot Plant Owl spent a lot of time with Teeny at the nest. From past experience, she tries to lure the other chicks back to the nest by feeding the remaining one lots of food. Pot Plant Owl will use the same tactic in reverse when she feels the chicks are ready to fledge - the one afraid of leaving will be lured away from the nest area with food (not receiving food at the nest).

When I fell asleep, both explorers were still on the floor.

Photo- Last year's Three Muskateers (one of them)

This is one of the chicks from last year on the balcony floor, lying on an old sandal (shoe) that I left outside. The chicks LOVED this sandal and would jump on it, bite it, lie on it, and in the rain when the balcony floor was wet, they even 'surfed' on it.

We nicknamed this chick "Little Little"

Tuesday 26 October

It's lovely to wake up in the morning, peer through the bedroom curtains and see three chicks snuggling up to one another in the nest. We are a few metres away from them - a fact that never ceases to amaze me.

Pot Plant Owl has left her chicks all morning on their own. She's dozing by the garage roof - probably quite enjoying her 'down time' from the responsibilities of raising a family. Both her and Pappa work tirelessly throughout the night and early morning, delivering food to the chicks.

The chicks have got gorgeous 'owl faces' - like miniature adults. Their eyes and beaks now well-formed and prominent facial features, and there's no getting away from that piercing owl stare, which they have mastered. The biggest chick with the darker face has also got well-defined black eyebrows. The middle chick doesn't have them clearly visible.

The shortlist of names for the chicks should be up on the Africam website shortly. Please visit to cast your vote, so we can finally stop calling the bigger chicks - Chick #1 and Chick #2 etc.

We've had a lot of enquiries recently for our book on these owls. The stumbling block is the shipping / postage costs ex South Africa. At the suggestions / nagging of followers of Pot Plant Owl in the first season, we completed our coffee-table book, right at the worst economic time. When it was ready to go to print, we had no publishers willing to take it on because it was considered a 'specialist interest and high-cost book' (with the high-res, full-colour photos in it). We ended up self-publishing with the help of two incredible sponsors. The book has been very well-received in the press here in South Africa. However, because we have self-published, we have to use the traditional forms of shipping / postage, which are very expensive. Therefore, I'm asking that if there is anyone that might be able to assist with discounted shipping rates ex SA, please drop me an email - Thanks so much.

Monday 25 October

There's a lot that can be said for modern advances, such as webcams . What has struck me so much in the past couple of weeks is how we all seem to crave some form of contact with the natural world. Our busy lives dictate when and where we can spend our free time. We get so caught up in our fast-paced lives that we literally don't make time to stop and smell the roses. Then along came webcams. Now, you are making dinner with an owl hooting in the background, as you watch the feeding of its young. Or with the click of a button, you can be on the other side of the world watching and listening to something equally as spectacular. We are truly fortunate!

For those not watching our owl family 24/7, here's an update. The two bigger chicks have begun exploring. Today they've stood casually on the lip of the pot, with expressions of "You can't stop us now" on their faces. Teeny remains in the pot -thankfully. In the early evening, the bigger chicks took turn stepping on the lip of the pot, and furiously flapping their wings

Their wing spans are impressive now, and far belie their tiny frames. As some of you saw on the webcam recently, the ferocity with which the chicks flap their wings can make them airborne - almost like a helicopter lifting. Of course, unlike a helicopter, they don't have the power yet to remain in the skies, so they come crashing down. It's all a big learning curve now for our chicks.

Teeny continues to grow and get stronger. Come meal time, Teeny becomes the most vocal and will stop at nothing to get food. He / she is quite prepared to push 'n shove, and jump and flap to get to the food. But if Teeny misses out on that incoming morsel, he /she will wait patiently for the next food to arrive - just like its siblings.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday 24 October

You wanted to see a picture of where we live - here it is. You can see upstairs to the left of the picture a tree by the brick pillar. That is where the nest is. When I am chatting online in the early evenings, I sit on the patio below. The roof in the background on the left is the roof most often used by Pappa to bring food to Pot Plant Owl. She meets him on that roof, and flies across to the balcony.
Will put up more chick photos tomorrow.
The chicks are becoming more active during the day. They lift their heads, look around, and stretch and flap their wings. It'll be anyday now when the chicks pluck up the courage to venture away from the container, and onto the balcony floor - hopefully. The alternative to the balcony floor is the balcony pillar or balustrading - something we do NOT want them to venture on until they can fly properly.

We spent time this morning looking at all the name submissions- thank you to everyone who send nominations in. I must admit that we had a lot of very original entries so it becomes hard to choose.

PM - We've just seen the Big Chick swallow a whole bird. It took some time getting it down, but what a feat! It must have felt quite sick afterwards - like I do when I eat too many helpings of food, or to much dessert.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday 23 October

03h30 Oh, it is just TOO early to be up at this time! For the first time this week, it wasn't the owls that woke me up. We're off to do a race in Pretoria. Quick head count on the balcony, and a 'hi' to all in the chat room, and off we went. Chicks are dozing. Pot Plant Owl is on the roof when we left.

Later on: The chicks' feathers have the Spotted Eagle Owl markings on them now. They still have a lot of fluff, but each day, the chicks are looking more like their parents. The biggest chick has almost grow all of its flight feathers on its wings. The false ear tufts look like little cotton balls on their heads. Pretty soon, the cotton balls will look like real ears, although they are not true ears at all.

I've had a lot of comments / praise about how well behaved the chicks are. They don't squabble amongst themselves; they don't grab food from each other (although they still 'fight' to be closest to the food source when a meal arrives), and they are gentle with one another. Is this unusual? No, not in our observations of Spotted Eagle Owl chicks for the past 3 years now. We've noticed that they are all quite 'well behaved' and appear to have real affection for one another. Look at the way they cuddle and sleep together, or preen each other. Simple care and affection, with no hidden agendas. We can learn a lot from their simple interaction - to be patient, wait your turn, know that you will receive in due course, to be tolerant, and not to be greedy (step aside when you've had your share so others can have too).

Later in the evening
A strong wind whipped up from nowhere. The yellow wood tree in the pot plant swayed furiously in the wind, while our three chicks stood motionless in the nest. The force of the wind caused many trees to bend and sway, and I would imagine forcing all garden birds to hang on tightly.

The chat room was abuzz with comments flying as the strength of the wind increased. "What can you do?" "Bring the chicks inside" "Where is PPO?" While panic levels were rising, Pot Plant Owl returned to the nest with food. She helped the chicks shred the food into smaller pieces, and then, like the good parent we know her to be, she remained on the lip of the pot with the chicks until the wind subsided. No damage was done and the chicks, for all intent and purposes, didn't appear the least bit fased by the whole event.

The rest of my viewing was much less eventful.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pic - And here's Teeny now

And here's Teeny now - looking much stronger and healthier! (perhaps a little camera shy)

Pic- Pappa (dad)

Here's Pappa (dad) on our perimeter wall, where he sometimes roosts for the day. Notice that he has dark, close-set eyes. He also has a big, white chin. The white chin is hidden from view now, but when he hoots, it balloons out.

Pic - Family

Pic - Teeny unwell

This is poor Teeny the day before we took it to FreeMe Wildlife Rehab Centre. Teeny fell / threw himself out the nest, and this is him / her on the balcony floor with mom watching over it.Poor Teeny wasn't looking well. It had a lot of mites on it, and it wasn't getting much food - not because the parents were ignoring it, but because it was't crying for food.

Friday 22 October

And here is our beautiful, Pot Plant Owl! This is one of the pics from our book, taken of her on our balcony just after the rain. She is exquisite!
Phew! Where to begin? Lots to say and do, and not enough time in the day for everything.

Firstly, thanks for all the comments on the blog. I read them all even if I don't reply to each individual one. Thanks to Fleur for the great video clips of the owls. You can find the links in the comments section from 20 Oct and 21 Oct.

And Vicki, thanks for the information about the middle chick's 'wandering' last night. That was the start of a lot more exploring to come, and now you can see how stressful it can get. We heard the owls hooting like crazy, but didn't look on the balcony. We also heard the chicks' snapping beaks.

Then, today is the last day to submit your entries for the "Name-the-chicks" competition. You can submit via Africam website, or the Africam Face Book page. We'll be shortlisting the names this weekend, and then you get to have the final say next week.

For those in South Africa: we'd like to educate children about owls and Nature in general, and have set aside some "Pot Plant Owl" books to donate to schools. If you'd like to nominate a school to receive a book, please send me an email on:

Then, we had great publicity this morning with an article in The Citizen newspaper, and a follow-up mention on the Jenny Cryws-Williams show on 702 Talk Radio. The article was about webcams as an important tool that can be used to educate people about Nature, and to raise awareness of the plight of animals / birds etc in urban area. We're really pleased that more and more people are taking the time to:

  • watch Nature at work

  • write and talk about the amazing stuff they see, and

  • want to make a difference (even if it is just giving up your balcony for a while like we have)

Getting back to the owls right now on the balcony:

I can confirm that Pot Plant Owl slept on one leg this morning. Her eyes were closed and even when I moved the curtain, she didn't wake up. So that answers one of the questions on the chat room last night about the owls.

Teeny is doing really well, and the popular opinion shared by many, is that Teeny will probably end up the strongest of the three. Teeny is full of bounce, and a far cry from the tiny, sickly chick we took to FreeMe.

The other two chicks are special and different. The biggest chick gulped down a small snake last night much to the delight of those watching the webcam at the time. And according to a viewer, the middle chick took off exploring last night - the first chick to venture out of the pot container. So there's lots to tell the chicks apart, if you spend a little time watching them.

Ok - will be back later.

Tonight's feeding is not as frantic as last night's. Our biggest chick (soon to be named) gobbled up another small snake. He / she slurped the snake up with the finesse of a seasoned spaghetti eater -well done!

Teeny got lots to eat, so no worries about Teeny losing out. The middle one also managed to be in the perfect spot to receive some good morsels of food, and larger pieces too. Very happy chicks!

We saw the most amazing thing on the neighbour's roof. Pot Plant Owl was on the roof and Pappa flew in and landed right at the edge of the roof. The two of them began their now famous conversations - going back and forth to each other for a while. Suddenly, Pot Plant Owl spread her wings out and flew at Pappa, attacking him. Immediately Pappa flew off again to hunt. We think she was trying to tell him to do his bit and get more hunting done. It reminded me of the cartoon scene of a housewife brandishing a rolling pin and chasing her husband out the house. It looked very funny!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday 21 October

Early hours - woken up again by loud hooting. This time it was Pappa's turn to have his say. I'm starting to get dark rings forming under my eyes thanks to the lack of sleep, and it's not even headache time when the owls start flying and crash-landing. Grr

More respectable time - just when I fell asleep, my alarm woke me up. I had a look at the family and they are all peacful and where they should be. Pot Plant Owl appears particularly laid-back. I think she's happy that Teeny is home, even if she doesn't understand what happened. That's the great thing with Nature - it can just accept that things are the way they are.

Will report back a little later on - DON'T FORGET TO GET YOUR NOMINATED NAMES IN.
By the way, does anyone know who came up with 'Teeny'? I forget who wrote about 'Teeny' first so I'd appreciate help. Teeny may not be the winning name for our little chick, but it is certainly a special mention that deserves much thanks.

Here is the link to see Teeny's return to the nest. THANK YOU FLEUR!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday 20 October

Approx 4 am Central African Time:
We are woken up by a racket coming from the balcony. Pot Plant Owl is having a full conversation with Pappa, who in turn is replying with the occasional 'hoot hoot'. This goes on and on and on for what seems like an hour. By this stage, I'm fully awake and can't get back to sleep. Thanks a lot, PPO!

A more respectable time:
The chicks are over 4 weeks old now - although looking at Teeny, you'd never think so. Watch this space for more 'action' any day now with the chicks.

We've been asked why Pot Plant Owl doesn't protect / cover her chicks when there's a storm and why we don't offer the chicks storm protection. In previous years, Pot Plant Owl has covered her chicks when they were much smaller. This year, she nested early and our seasonal rains were late, so those two factors combined meant that when the rains came, the chicks were bigger than previous years. The chicks need to toughen up and get used to the climate and conditions, so perhaps that is why Pot Plant Owl has chosen to let them 'ride out a storm' by themselves. As for our involvement, no, we won't begin erecting shelters for them over the nest. We have to let Nature take its course and will only intervene when something goes wrong - like Teeny's illness.

Another question we've been asked is why do you think the owls chose your balcony to nest? There could be many reasons, but here are some we suspect are true:
  • We built our house on part of an old farm. Perhaps years ago, Pot Plant Owl was born in the same geographical location as our house, and came back to the area (assuming her parents are no longer around). Perhaps our balcony is the site of a tree that she remembers
  • We have no dogs or cats. Perhaps the lack of these potential threats is one reason why they chose the balcony
  • The balcony provides an excellent vantage point over the neighbourhood and adjacent wetland where the owls hunt
  • The balcony is very close to their main food source - the wetland - which we are trying hard to save from being developed
  • Aren't Owls supposed to be Wise? That being the case, perhaps Pot Plant Owl just knew that we would not harm her, and we'd even give up our balcony for 3 months of the year so she can co-exist with us. Wise old Owl!
  • But the main reason we believe is because Humans are destroying owl habitats (in fact, a lot of Natural habitats). Instead of feeling 'safe' nesting in a forested area, Pot Plant Owl is forced to choose an urban environment due to lack of habitat. It is not uncommon to hear of birds nesting in rooftops, high-rise buildings, across busy highways etc. While I love having the owls share the space with us, it saddens me to think that Pot Plant Owl and Pappa probably do not have much choice.

So, we do what we can without habituating the owls to humans too much. In African, and around the World, there are many superstitions about owls. Owls are persecuted because of these beliefs. By opening up our home (balcony) to all of you to watch the owls, we hope it will make you appreciate them, and see them in a different light if you have ever been weary or afraid of owls.

Nothing much happening during the day. The 'sleeping beauties' are making of siesta time. They'll be active tonight, for sure.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tuesday 19 October

Well! What an eventful night last night! I didn't get much sleep because I was still quite 'wired up' about Teeny and its re-introduction to the family.

A summary for those that missed all the action:
Teeny was brought back home yesterday and put straight into the nest. I'm quite relieved that I didn't get hit on the head by steely talons while I did my Good Samaritan bit. The other chicks responded to Teeny immediately. At one stage, it looked like they were squashing Teeny (Teeny is half their size), but I think it was just over-excitement, not intending to hurt Teeny.

Pot Plant Owl sat on the lip of the container and for the most part, ignored Teeny. This wasn't too serious - the big test of the parents accepting Teeny back would come in later - at feeding time.

At nightfall, the chicks became restless, and the parents went off to hunt. We watched, and waited. Eventually the parents brought food to the nest. There was a flurry of activity and wings flapping to get the food. Teeny's small stature played against him / her, and Teeny was shoved to the side each time.

By this stage, everyone watching was anxious. If Teeny did not get food, we would then have to return it to the Wildlife Rehab Centre for feeding and eventual release into the wild. This was not our first choice.

Eventually, Teeny fought back - and won! After getting the first bit of food, Teeny's confidence (and hunger) fuelled it to jump further and reach higher, and it got more and more food. Pretty soon, it was showing the signs of being well fed.

This morning I expected to wake up to the begging cry of the chicks for a last-minute snack before their bedtime. And there they were - fast asleep, lying flat in the pot plant container. Teeny was lying on its back and looked very content.

Pappa is sitting on our perimeter wall this morning. Why the change of roosting spot? Who knows! Pot Plant Owl is on the garage roof nearby, where she can see the nest.

We need another good feeding session tonight to ensure that Teeny starts catching up to the others in size.

Don't forget the naming competition for the chicks. Details can be found on Africam's Face Book page, and I think of the Africam website as well(?) -need to check on that.

PM Central African Time - Teeny got the first bit of food! The early feeding tonight was much less stressful than last night's and Teeny did get some good food. The other 2 chicks are really wanting their own identities now, so please get your name votes in so we can give them proper names. They are just as precious as Teeny and deserve as much.

Monday 18 October

VERY EXCITED! Just received a phonecall from the Wildlife Rehab Centre (09h00 Central African Time)

Teeny is ready to come home and be re-introduced to the family. This will take place in the next two hours. Please watch with all fingers and toes crossed that it is a successful reunion.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday 16 October

Teeny is still doing well - thanks to everyone for the well wishes. Hopefully, we will be able to re-introduce Teeny to the family next week. Fingers crossed that all continues to go well.

I've answered the question that Diesel posted on why we aren't providing enough shelter and water misters for the owls. You'll find the answer under the comments section on the post dated Friday 15 October.

Pot Plant Owl has changed her behaviour this year. The main noticeable difference is that she leaves the chicks alone during the day much more than previous years. The first year, she never left their side during the day. Last year, she was still on the balcony somewhere watching over them (three survived last year so there was much less room for everyone to move around). Today Pot Plant Owl has spent most of the day on the neighbour's roof. The neighbour's roof is straight behind the far corner of the nest that you see when watching the webcam, so she is still in sight of her nest.

The other two chicks are doing well - very lazy. They are approaching 4 weeks old now and are getting more prominent Spotted Eagle Owl patterns on their wings. What you will also see much more of is wing stretching and wing flapping. This is an important part of a chick's development. There's a lot of 'testing the waters' with their wings before they look at trying to fly.

As far as their development goes, the two chicks now in the nest are looking 'perfect' for their age. They are not underfed or malnourished. To viewers, they may appear smaller than the Barn Owl, Molly's chicks, but Spotted Eagle Owls are bigger. Our webcam is looking down at the nest, and what you don't see is a fair distance between the top of the soil level and the lip of the container.

There are no storms predicted for this evening so it should be fun viewing for all. Enjoy and thank you for being part of this!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday 15 October

Update on 'Teeny' (the little chick in the rehab centre). Teeny is doing well, and looking a lot better apparently. He / She was very fortunate to have missed the series of hailstorms we had last night, which the other two chicks didn't escape. The Wildlife Rehab Centre person in the clinic said that Teeny has two dedicated people feeding it, and it should be able to come back to be re-introduced next week.

The re-introduction thing is new to us too. If all goes well, Pot Plant Owl will realise there is another mouth to feed, and just feed it. If things don't work out, we will take Teeny back to the rehab centre for feeding, and later release into the wild. Either way, Teeny is in the nest of hands at the moment and my honest feeling is that he/ she wouldn't have survived past yesterday if we didn't take it away.

I felt quite stressed last night watching the other two little chicks huddling together when the hail came down. At least the hail stones weren't too big. It is Nature, but one forgets how hard it is for them, unless you are watching closely, like we are doing now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cont. Thurs 14 October

Updated on our little owl: He / She recovered enough to be moved to the Wildlife Rehab Centre.
It is doing okay there now. If the chick's health improves, we may get it back in about a week's time to reintroduce it back to Pot Plant Owl and the other two chicks.

By the way, it has come to our attention that some viewers from the USA are upset because of the name of our mother owl and the title of our book, Pot Plant Owl. These viewers believe that we are drugging the owls and putting them in a marijuana container.

This is a case of mistaken phraseology between nations. Here in South Africa, a pot plant is a container in which a plant is planted. I think in the USA you may call this a 'potted plant'? Anyway, I wish to stress that we are in no way drugging our owls (or ourselves for that matter, being vegetarian and athletes). Also the name of tree planted in the container is a Indigenous Yellow Wood tree. Please look it up so you can learn more about this tree. Again, some people have said the tree looks like a marijuana plant - simply not true!

Hope this clarifies everything. Please feel free to question any other 'funny phraseology' you may pick up. We are, after all, South Africans. :)

Thursday 14 October

What an eventful day - and it is only 10h20 Central African Time!
To fill you in:
The little chick that fell out the nest a couple of days ago hasn't been looking good. Last night I even went out on the balcony with a torch to see if it had fallen behind or by the side of the pot container. Eventually it lifted its head up in the nest an I saw it, but it wasn't looking healthy.

This morning we had a heavy thundershower and the chicks were left in the nest by themselves. The two larger ones huddled together, but the little one didn't even open its eyes as it lay in the cold and wet. As soon as the rain stopped, Pot Plant Owl flew back to the nest, and sheltered the 2 bigger chicks, completely ignoring the little one. We knew then we had to intervine.

We have an incredible bird vet (we have parrots as pets) so we called him immediately. He said we need to bring the little chick in, which we did. That's what some of you saw this morning on the webcam.

The little chick was covered in hundreds of small mites. (Consequently, I was covered in them as I held the chick tightly in my jersey). At the moment, the chick is on a heated pad at the vet's so that it can get warm. It has been sprayed for the mites so they shouldn't be a problem anymore.

The vet couldn't look at any injuries at this stage because the chick was too cold and weak. In all likelihood, if the chick seems physically okay (apart from malnourished now and cold), it will go to a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. There is will be fed up and hopefully released back into the wild when it is healthier and a bit older.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre it will go to is one that we support in the sales of our book on the owls. Some of the proceeds of every book sale goes to one of 3 charities.

Now, especially, it is fantastic to know that the funds we have helped raise so far for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre will go into hopefully saving our baby chick.

Will keep you updated.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday 13 October

To fill you in on what happened after yesterday's disaster:
We went out onto the balcony after Pot Plant Owl left the nest a couple of hours later. I picked the fallen chick up, checked quickly for any external injuries, and put it back in the nest. It seems okay but only time will tell.

You will see that we have also added a piece of green shade cloth to the side of the balcony. Yesterday was just so hot that the poor chicks were struggling. Unfortunately this tree doesn't give much shade. We had to replace the tree from last year because it was hit by frost over winter.

Today, Pot Plant Owl has spent most of the time with her chicks. Seen a lot of preening of the chicks and they are much happier in the cooler temperature. Pappa remains on our perimeter wall and occasionally hoots to keep in contact.

The chicks are getting bigger by the hour - virtually. You will notice that they have owl feathers coming through fast.

You can also clearly see the difference now in the three chicks:
One has a very black face. He's the biggest one and looks like his father, Pappa, who has close-set eyes and a darker face than Pot Plant Owl (apart from his magnificent white chin).
One chick is lighter in colour - looks more like its mother. It is smaller than the chick with the darker face.
And then there's the baby of the family - the one that fell out the nest yesterday. It is a lot smaller than the other two. When standing next to its siblings, this chick looks a head shorter.

We are seeing lots of king crickets being eaten. Lining the nest are lots of bird feathers (I'm not too happy about the owls taking the birds from our garden, but I suppose it is Nature). I haven't seen many bigger things, such as rats, this year. Perhaps with the wetland a devastated mess, there are fewer rodents in the area.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday 12 October

2:30pm Central African time - Disaster! I was sitting at my desk near the window and heard a strange noise. I looked outside and saw Pot Plant Owl on the floor of the balcony, looking down at one of her chicks. The chick was making a sound I haven't heard an owl make - like a high-pitched squeaking sound. It must have fallen out the nest.

I went outside under an umbrella - Pot Plant Owl staring at me the whole time, but not moving from her chick. I stayed there for a while, trying to see if the chick is injured but I couldn't get closer. It is very hot here today and all 3 chicks were gullar fluttering (panting) all day.

I left the balcony at 3pm. Pot Plant Owl left the chick on the floor (it is the smallest one) and is now sitting on the lip of the pot.

As soon as she leaves the nest, I'll go out and pick the chick up and put it back in the nest. If it is injured, we'll have to take it to a wildlife rehabilitation centre to be seen to. Will keep you updated!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday 11 October

The morning routine has changed from previous years. When we wake, the chicks sit in the pot plant by themselves. We can see Pot Plant Owl on a garage roof a few metres away, in sight of the nest. Pappa sits under a tree on our wall on the other side of the house. The parents stay in the roosting places for an hour or two, until eventually, in broad daylight, Pappa flies to his 'proper' roosting spot, and Pot Plant Owl joins her chicks on the balcony. What has made them decide to fly during the day and do this little routine of swopping places, who knows!

More and more grey, patterned feathers are appearing on the chicks. This morning we watched Pot Plant Owl feed the chicks and within 10 minutes, they were each double the size they were. They comfortably look over the pot now, whereas just a few days ago, they couldn't see over the lip of the pot.

What do they eat? Mostly insects - King crickets, flying ants - then birds, we've seen them eat small snakes etc

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday 10 October

Wow! Did anyone see that? It's 16h10 Central African Time - sunny, hot day here in Johannesburg. All the normal gardens birds are out still eating and bathing etc.

We were sitting downstairs when I suddenly saw out of the corner of my eye, the large outstretched wings of an owl swoop up towards the balcony. Thinking that Pot Plant Owl had left the balcony to drop a pellet, I went upstairs to the hide in our bedroom. I looked out of the windown and there was Pot Plant Owl sitting in a far pot plant. I looked towards the chicks and couldn't believe my eyes! There was Pappa (the father) sitting on the lip of the pot plant with the 3 chicks. One chick looked to be eating a lizard with a tail sticking out of its mouth.

In three years, we have never seen Pappa come in during the day and feed the chicks. Once or twice, we have seen him fly to the nest or around the nest, protecting it from crows, but never flying in during the daytime with food.

I'm hoping someone saw the actual catch he brought in. If you saw it, please let us know. It didn't look like a bird to me, and it had a tail that I could see. I'd be really interested to find out.

So there you go. Even when you think you've seen it all, you are proven wrong. Keep watching - its so much fun!

Saturday 9 October

The chicks are learning quickly that the way to get food quickly is to be beg for it - by hissing and looking around eagerly. Pot Plant Owl leaves them around 4pm (Central African Time) and doesn't return unless to feed them.

During the summer months in Johannesburg, we have afternoon thunder showers that often give way to violent lightning storms. Tonight saw the start of the lightning storms for this season. As the lightning lit up the sky and thunder roared in the distance, Pot Plant Owl casually sat on her hunting perch - a telephone pole that looks out onto the once-densely vegetated wetland that is adjacent to our complex.

In Janruary this year, a developer started a bulldozer up to cut the trees down- in the guise of getting rid of all the alien vegetation. What people don't know is that a study was done on small raptor species, like our Spotted Eagle Owls. In South Africa, over 95% of all small raptor species nest in alien vegetation. By cutting down the alien vegetation without replanting anything, you destroy raptor species' habitats and they may soon become endangered. We are in October and there has not been one thing done to rehabilitate the wetland - no tree or shrub planted, no stumps of the fallen alien trees treated. There is massive soil degredation that is causing havoc with nature that lived in the wetland. This is literally the only wetland for miles, and if this goes, we may lose the owls forever.

We watch tonight as Pot Plant Owl teaches her chicks how to fend for themselves in the storm. As quickly as it whipped up, it was over and normal hunting resumed.

Friday 8 October

If you look closely, you'll start to see proper owl feathers developing on the chicks. Small Spotted Eagle Owl feathers replace the white fluff.

The other thing you'll see is one of the chicks has a much darker face than the other two. There is one very tiny one (in comparison to its siblings - quite normal for this stage of their development), which only leaves one other chick. Each chick will begin to develop their own personalities. One might be curious and want to venture far to explore. One may be shy. From the appearances and personalities, we'll be running a "Name the Chicks" competition through

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday 8 October

The chicks experienced their first 'proper' rainfall this afternoon. Pot Plant Owl left them to regurgitate a pellet on the garage roof. The rain started falling and I watched as the chicks huddled together in the nest. Pot Plant Owl didn't return until later in the evening to feed them.

For those watching on the webcam, you will hear the chicks make a hissing-type sound in the early evenings. This is their usual sound when they are begging for food. The hissing sound is usually accompanied by head-bopping and eagerly looking around for the next meal.

From this age right up until after the chicks fledge and leave us, we don't hear them hoot like their parents. Any hooting you hear on the webcam at night will be the parents. The male (Pappa) normally makes a hoot-hoot sound. Pot Plant Owl replies with two short hoots hoots followed by one long one - hoothoot-hoot. I'm not an ornithologist so forgive my explanation but you will hear the difference if you listen on the webcam.

As you will see, the chicks are growing by the day -in fact, now they almost double in size daily.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday 6 October

Pot Plant Owl sits on the lip of the pot most of the day. The chicks are moving around more and learning to preen themselves and each other. The tiny wings are stretched and flapped, and suddenly the chicks flop down with exhaustion and sleep.

For those wishing to see the owl family, please visit Best viewing time is late afternoon GMT +2hrs (Central African Time) or later in the evening when the chicks are fed by the parents.

In the evening, the sound of thunder and a few minutes of rainfall brought Pot Plant Owl back to the nest to cover her chicks. The rain didn't last long which is not a good thing for our gardens or dams, but good for the chicks. They are about 18 days old now and have not experienced the bug thunderstorms yet. I'm hoping that the rain holds out for another few days so they get bigger.

Tuesday 5 October

There's been no rain while we've been away, and everything is looking dry. Early this evening, we set out onto the balcony under an umbrella, to water the plants.

Pot Plant Owl watches from the roof as we approach the nest. The three chicks are looking at us with interest - this is the first time they have seen any humans. They don't know what to make of the water as it starts trickling over the side of the nest. No, the chicks weren't wet in the process.

We're so close to them that we can see tiny owl feathers appearing now. They are going to get big very soon.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday 4 October

I know, I know! You've been waiting for an update and there hasnt been one on many days. Not laziness and cetainly not for lack of want or interest in my part. We've literally JUST walked in the door from taking an incentive group into the Masai Mara, Kenya. I had hoped to update the blog while I was there but it didn't work out as planned.

Still, what we did manage to see was what our family of owls was doing through the live webcam. For those of you that don't know about it, please visit There is a front page link to 'our' owl POT PLANT OWL. A lot of the time there is sound as well.

Being in the Mara watching the end of the Migration brings us a sense of perspective - how incredible Nature is - the intricate systems, and the whole balance that Nature brings to the world. It is in this order - things just moving as, and how, they should - that we find calm and peacefulness. While there, though, all I wanted to do was find a little internet connectivity and check on our owls.

We've been back home for 30minutes now, and had a chance to look at the family closely.The chicks are unrecognisable to us - even though we knew what to expect. Instead of little bundles of fluff, we now have tiny owl faces looking up, with eyes that can hardly focus on anything. They are preening themselves and each other - new since last week. I haven't had a chance to see the feeding yet, but I am sure that by now they are getting large pieces of meat, maybe even whole insects to swallow themselves.

If you look on the webcam during the day, you will see that Pot Plant Owl spends a lot of her standing on the lip of the pot, so there are clear views of the chicks!

Off to bed now - it is late and I am exhausted. Will keep the blog updated now daily. Things are happening now...