Last night was pretty interesting. Lot’s of wildlife action, though most fascinating to me are the screech owl and desert cottontail rabbit interactions. I am so comforted to know my backyard offers an oasis for the wild critters. What do you think?
Yes, I am an opportunistic wildlife observer. So, yes, another western screech owl post. More than six weeks after fledging, the owlets are still hanging around with their mom and dad. In this clip, two fledglings are in the suspended bird bath with, who I believe, is their dad (based on plumage characteristics and over 4 months of observation). The temps have been high, 105 degrees and above (40+ Celsius).
The Western Screech owl fledglings have continued to use the backyard waterholes and patio after fledging nearly two weeks ago. It appears the adult female is feeding them and teaching them to hunt while the adult male has not been captured on video since the little owls fledged.
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:
While it was only 97 degrees today (yesterday was 100), the female western screech owl took a time out from the nest box and her kids to cool off. Only the screech owl nestlings know how miserable it was inside the nestbox during the late afternoon heat.
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:
Despite the recent absence from my blog I have continued to capture photos and videos of things that interest me. Most recently, I’ve been focused on Sonoran Desert nature. Here are some favorite videos from the last few weeks.
Western Screech Owl and a Red-spotted Toad:
A Datura bloom time-lapse:
A Desert Kingsnake:
Round-tailed ground Squirrel Family: