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.
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:
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:
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.
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 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.
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 coopers hawk:
A bat catching a sphinx moth at a cactus flower:
And a cute little western screech owl:
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:
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.
Here’s a photo of the two nestlings from last summer’s clutch:
Here’s a male Broad-billed hummingbird I photographed at one of my feeders, fully displaying his sexual dimorphism.
Finally, here’s a video of the female feeding her one nestling from the last clutch of this summer:
While out and about in Costa Rica I was able to spy some pretty interesting birds. The distinguishing features for my favorites are their plumage colors and unique tail feathers. My favorite sighting was a quetzal in the family Trogonidae. I spotted the bird above us, but it was my hiking partner who was able to capture the better image of the bird before it flew off. Diego said this was one of only a handful of sightings in several years in that location.
The next bird with beautiful plumage and unique tail feathers is a motmot. I think this one is a Blue-crowned motmot. Look at those tail feathers!
The last fascinating bird I spotted was near my room. This one is in the family Cuculidae and is a squirrel cuckoo. As you can see, its distinguishing feature are its extra-long tail feathers with notable white tips.
There’s a peacefulness here, though its purposeful, intentional on my part, finding beauty in the simple things. Every morning I wake to the call of a Rufous-tailed hummingbird outside the bungalow and melodious songs of distant cryptic birds. There are photogenic spiders to admire and unique plants to photograph. I left my DSLR at home so all the photos are from my cell phone or my Lumix point-and-shoot camera. Not the best, but fun.
The New Year brought me to Costa Rica for a short reboot. Hoping to start 2019 on a clear and heart-felt path. While most of my adventures have to do with nature, conservation and wildlife, this trip is focused on health and well-being. However, that hasn’t stopped my curiosity and desire to explore the natural world around me. Granted, I know very little about Costa Rican biodiversity, so the photos below have only the simplest of descriptions.
A few orchids:
A few insects:
I did not have my good DSLR, so the few bird photos I’ve taken so far are not that great: