The Screech Owlets have left The nestbox

The little western screech owls fledged last night. After documenting them in their nestbox every night and some days for over three months I feel a bit sad and will miss them. They are now out in the wild world and will, hopefully, have successful careers as owls. They’ll still be fed by their parents for a little while longer as they learn to hunt and fend for themselves.

Two of the three owlets a few days before fledging. Click on photo for more images. Copyright: Greg Joder.
Western screech owlets. Click on photo for more images. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Western Screech Owl Nesting Update

The western screech owl pair have been busy feeding three hungry owlets. The nestlings appear to be nearing the time to leave their nest. Last night both parents made over 16 feeding trips which included grubs, geckos, and a small packrat.

On previous nights, prey items also included a small bird, western blind snakes, spiny lizards, moths, and even a hummingbird. Seeing the dead hummingbird getting eaten by an owlet made me sad as hummingbirds are dear to my heart.

The young screech owls have also been spending time checking out their daytime word:

Backyard Wildlife Action

We’re entering the time of year where rain is sparse. Likely no rain until July. So, at this time, when many species are having young or just trying to survive, any water source is a means of survival. This video captures many of the common critters here in Tucson, Arizona, all from my backyard:

Western Screech Owls

A few months ago I put up two screech owl nest boxes in my yard. Each box has a 3″ diameter hole which is within the size recommended to accommodate screech owls. Within a week an owl found both nest boxes and would randomly appear sitting in the entrance to one for a couple months. It wasn’t long before breeding season began and a second owl appeared. They paired up and chose the red nest box which was in a shady protected area in a false willow tree.

Female Western Screech Owl. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Both adults began hunting foray’s to feed hungry nestlings. It appeared that the male would catch prey and give it to the female who was, early on, incubating eggs, then later, feeding the nestlings.

A few days ago I decided to take a short video inside the nest box using a tiny borescope inspection camera. I wanted to see how old and how many owlets there were. I waited until after the female left the nest box in the early evening and was able to capture this video, confirming 3 downy nestlings:

Seeing the nestlings and their size made sense given how many prey items the adults were bringing into the nest box. The prey has varied from small moths and non-native geckos to a small passerine bird, a large Western blind snake (pencil-size diameter, maybe a foot long) which escaped, and a couple kangaroo rats. Here’s the video from last night’s action:

Camera Trapping

Camera traps are one of the best ways to observe wildlife behavior that you’d likely not see because it’s either dark out or your presence would alter the animals behavior. I bought my first camera trap around 2005 and was instantly addicted. I had no idea there were such shenanigans happening when I wasn’t around.

Mountain lion in the Sonoran Desert. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Now, in 2019, I have about 10 personal cameras set up in the desert around my home town, Tucson, including my backyard. I also have another 10 cameras set up at Audubon’s Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch near Elgin, Arizona. We use these cameras for long-term wildlife monitoring, recording which animals and how often pass through the research ranch.

In this post I’d like to share some backyard wildlife action my cameras recently captured.

A bobcat:

A coopers hawk:

A bat catching a sphinx moth at a cactus flower:

And a cute little western screech owl:

Queen Butterfly Metamorphosis

The Queen and Monarch butterfly season in my pollinator garden was pretty subdued this summer. Not sure if it was the dismal monsoon season with very little rain or other factors. I did manage to catch a couple stages of metamorphosis of a queen butterfly.

First, watch a queen caterpillar turn into a chrysalis:

And the next step is the fully developed butterfly emerging from its chrysalis:

Hummingbird Nest in the Patio

For the third year and second time this summer a Broad-billed Hummingbird raised a new batch of hummingbirds in a re-used nest in my patio. Both the first clutch and the second (seen below) from this summer had two eggs, but only one from each clutch was viable and successfully fledged.

Female Broad-billed Hummingbird. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Here’s a photo of the two nestlings from last summer’s clutch:

A female Broad-billed hummingbird feeding her two nestlings. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Here’s a male Broad-billed hummingbird I photographed at one of my feeders, fully displaying his sexual dimorphism.

Male Broad-billed hummingbird at a feeder in Tucson, Arizona. Copyright: Greg Joder.

Finally, here’s a video of the female feeding her one nestling from the last clutch of this summer: