Deep Freeze

Sub-zero, forty-mile-per-hour winds chased Ward into the nest box at three o'clock this morning. His entry was so loud and awkward that I suspected it was another owl until daylight revealed the reason for his struggle. He had stashed the large white bird shown here on the floor of the nest box. This was the first time that prey had been stored in the nest box since the 1998 nesting season and it raised two questions: When would he return to retrieve it and how would he deal with a frozen meal as large as this? The answers came shortly after sunset when he returned and attempted to eat the rock-solid morsel. Short periods of loud chomping, clawing and slamming were interrupted by much longer periods of silence which must have been attempts to thaw the stubborn meal. This went on for a solid six hours before he gave up and departed. His departure was marked by a loud struggle and the slamming of a very solid object against the sides of the nest box. Several hours later, daylight revealed no sign of Ward or his frozen prey. He had apparently invested six hours in a failed attempt to enjoy his catch before deciding to take it with him for another attempt. While a microwave oven would be handy, I expect that he will settle for an insulated cavity, a warmer day, and a little sunlight. His willingness to invest so much effort in a single meal suggests that these are hard times for owls.

Note that this new view of the nest box interior is provided by a second camera that I added in November. It is a color camera that should provide some spectacular "owlet eye level" close ups if the owls nest this spring.

Back To: Owl Adventures 2000