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.