Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

22 October - PPO Update

It's been an interesting and difficult owl season this year. As it is in Nature, there are ups and downs that we can't control no matter how much we'd like to.

The decision for us to switch off the webcam proved to be the best one to make. We had the opportunity last night of removing the eggs from the nest and opening up the two eggs, and they were both infertile.

There are a myriad of possible reasons why the eggs were not viable this year:
Perhaps one, or both, of the owls are infertile.
Perhaps toxins in the environment have caused am imbalance that is affecting fertility.
Perhaps the copulation period was rushed and didn't 'get the job done'.
Perhaps it is Nature's way of curbing the owl population numbers which have been on the increase in our area.

The good news is that Pot Plant Owl and Pappa are still making visits to their nest. They were both on the balcony in the early hours of this morning hooting to each other. PPO sits on her telephone pole nearby and we watch her hunt.

We don't believe that the owls will abandon the balcony nesting site - at least we hope that they don't. But of course, we can't be sure as they are wild and will do what they feel is right for them.

As a tribute to our owl family, we are making a 2013 calendar that will be ready by Friday 26th October.

Friday, October 19, 2012

19 October and my mind churns

One question that is playing over and over in my mind is:

How would this situation be playing out if PPO had chosen a 'normal' Spotted Eagle Owl nest i.e. a scraping in the ground, or a fork in a tree?

PPO would be closer to predators of all kinds if she was on the ground. Larger snakes would probably try to get the eggs. There may be animals such as dogs bothering her. In heavy rains, nests have been known to be washed away.

So if PPO had chosen a 'normal' nest, would she still be sitting on the eggs? She must know that there is no life in the eggs and therefore nothing is going to happen.

Is she staying longer on the eggs because of how safe her nesting area is - one storey up away from dogs and cats? No snakes have ever - touch wood - slid up the walls and onto the balcony before. We leave PPO alone so we are not a perceived threat to her at this stage.

As much as PPO and Pappa are left to their own devices on our balcony, the balcony is still an unnatural nesting site for them. When weighing up the pros and cons of taking the eggs away versus letting her continue to sit, surely we need to look at the actual site too?

Could this question suggest that the best thing to do at this point is to take the eggs away?

Pot Plant Owl yesterday

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

17 October and the cam is off

It's the end of this breeding season. It's strange to write 'breeding' season when no successful breeding occurred, but it is nonetheless, time to close the doors on the balcony nest for the time being.

Right now, I am in the process of gathering as much material as I can from owl experts and such like, to see what may have gone wrong, and what we can expect going forward.

Right now, we find ourselves in a Catch-22 situation.
Do we leave the eggs with PPO until she decides to abandon them (we are now day 47 of what should be an approx 30-32 day cycle of incubation)?
Or do we take the eggs away from her - they are clearly not viable - and allow her to get on with her life, and perhaps another breeding season?

If we leave the eggs, who do we benefit - science or PPO? There is evidence to suggest that the longer she sits on the eggs, the more energy she is using. Pappa is also expending a lot of extra energy by hunting for her.

If we take the eggs away, do we really benefit PPO, or do we just disrupt the natural cycle and possibly a recorded scientific observation? There is no doubt that where possible, one should never interfere with the natural order of things. Time and time again, Man has interfered with the view to 'saving or helping' something, and it has backfired - badly.

Something to think about. We will keep asking the experts questions and see what they come up with.

Will let you know.

Friday, October 12, 2012

12 October and decision time

When there is a difficult decision to make, I am the biggest procrastinator around. First I think about the situation, and then I think some more. My mind processes possible outcomes, and eventually comes up with one that, ultimately, will be the path that I will take. But instead of jumping right in with both feet and dealing with it, I take a step back and ignore the situation. Eventually something usually happens to spur me into action and I take that decisive step into the territory known as "crunch time".

I reached that point this morning with what to do with my sweet Pot Plant Owl. It came to me as I sat at the window and watched the rain falling down on her already drenched feathers. Her false ear tufts almost lay flat on her head, and she looked smaller and more vulnerable faithfully protecting her eggs that, I am almost 100% sure, are not viable.

I have to respect their privacy and give Pot Plant Owl and Pappa some space. Sooner or later, PPO will realise that sitting on her eggs will not make a difference to the outcome - the eggs are not hatching. Maybe she's already come to that conclusion but is also procrastinating or ignoring the facts.

As strange as it may sound to many people, I believe that animals and birds pick up all our thoughts and feelings. And maybe, just maybe, Pot Plant Owl knows that her eggs are not viable but she wants to 'show us all' that she is still trying. I liken it to my dying grandmother hanging on for a few hours in order for her daughters to gather around her to say goodbye.

Pot Plant Owl is not going anywhere, but she needs to be given the permission to 'let go' now. The best way I can do that for her is to give her her privacy.

Regretably for you viewers, this means that if an egg doesn't hatch by Sun 14th October, we will switch the webcam off early next week. This will allow PPO to decide how she is going to handle the situation. We will obviously be here to keep an eye on her, but otherwise she won't be the focus of so many people's attention.

Will she lay eggs again this season? I honestly can't say. This is a first for us so who knows. We will keep you informed.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

05 October and where are the chicks?

Still two eggs in the pot plant, with a very chilled PPO keeping them warm. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the fact that an egg hasn't hatched yet. PPO laid the first egg on the 1st September.

I wonder if this has anything to do with last year's egg that wasn't viable? That was a first too - three eggs laid and only two hatched. Perhaps its an indication of a pattern that may well continue?

We'll have to sit tight for another week and see what happens.

Monday, October 1, 2012

1 October and any day now...

It's almost time for our little chicks to appear and all is going well. So much so, that I wonder if this will be 'the' year - the year of well-behaved chicks.

Chicks that instinctively know not to climb onto balcony pillars before they are ready.
Chicks that listen to the hoots of their parents, and know when to follow the hoots, and when to stay put.
Chicks that learn to 'crawl' before they walk, instead of believing that they can imitate their parents on the first day of flying (and end up in all sorts of trouble).
Chicks that can tell the difference between a safe place (our balcony) and a no-go area (between two electric fences).
Chicks that play with the toys we give them (the shoe, the owl box, the wooden perches) instead of making up their own games(Follow-the-leader-even-if-you-aren't-ready).
Chicks that, when realising that they have 'messed up' and are getting rescued from some kind of trouble, don't then call the protective parents to bombard the rescuer.

Yes, we can all dream - can't we?