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5-1-02 update: After a quiet day, Ward showed up at 6:10 pm with a shrew. For the first time, June stored it on the floor rather than eating it, which suggested that hatching was imminent. The big surprise, however, came when Ward returned at 10pm and called June out. While she was outside hooting with Ward, a much louder version of last night's peeping could be heard along with a new but quieter peeping from the other egg. This indicates that one of the owlets has penetrated the shell with its beak and that the other is not far behind. June should be helping them out of their shells at any time now. I will post pictures as soon as she moves out of the way for long enough to allow a picture. (11:30pm)
5-1-02: There was no prey stored on the floor this morning and only an occasional very weak peep to indicate that hatching should start soon. June has not left the nest to permit a look, but the weakness of the sound suggests that the owlet has not yet penetrated the shell. (3:30pm)
4-29-02: No hatching today. The first indication of hatching would be the peeping sound that an owlet makes in the hours before it emerges from the shell. When this happens, June notifies Ward, who starts bringing in prey to be stored in the nest for the first time. None of this has happened yet and the only sound that can be heard over the cold rain falling on the roof is an occasional rearranging of the wood chips by June. Ward again stopped by just after sunset and June rushed out to greet him with some loud hooting. She was back in just three minutes to continue incubating her eggs.
4-28-02: Still no sign of hatching as the incubation period goes into its 28th day. Based on past history, tomorrow would be the most likely day for hatching to start. Heavy rains and winds are predicted for most of the week, so that Ward will have a real challenge in providing enough food if the eggs should hatch. He managed to deliver three meals during a brief break in the weather just after dark, but has not been back since the heavy rains started again at 9pm.
4-27-02: Improving weather again allowed Ward to catch up with his hunting this evening with five food deliveries before 11 pm. June started the day with a brief departure from the nest, but was back in less than ten minutes and did not so much as climb to the door for the rest of the day. In spite of her continuing devotion to her eggs, there has been no sign of hatching yet.
4-25-02: Ward took advantage of last night's good weather to catch up on his hunting.. He delivered six meals to June before dawn and she looked quite content as she quietly incubated her eggs today. With hatching possible as soon as Sunday, she is becoming increasingly focused on her eggs and has spent less than fifteen minutes outside the nest in the last 24 hours.
4-24-02: In spite of the clear, calm weather last night, Ward managed only one food delivery and June let him hear about it this morning with almost constant whining. He did not respond until 2pm, when he called her out with a classic hoot. They could both be heard hooting excitedly in the distance for the next 10 minutes. June then returned and spent a quiet afternoon incubating her eggs. The unseasonably cool weather continues with nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing.
4-21-02: June's day in the nest was unusually quiet until 5:30pm when Ward called home with his classic hoot. She responded with a wild sequence that was almost identical to the one you heard yesterday. I have heard this sequence many times in past years, but it had always occurred at night and had come in response to a food delivery. These two recent outbursts occurred in daylight and were triggered by nothing more than Ward's hooting. As of 11pm this evening, Ward is yet to make his first food delivery, so that he has a lot of catching up to do before dawn.
4-19-02: After ten food deliveries last night, June seemed more relaxed today and even exchanged classic hoots with Ward from the nest for the first time this year. Ward, however, returned her call from a heavily wooded area far to the south of his normal roosting position near the nest. He has spent much more time in this area this year than in past years, and I suspect that great horned owls that could be heard just to the north are the reason. This is another possible reason for his shift to smaller prey, since the great horned owls get first choice of hunting areas and may be monopolizing the areas where larger prey could be found.
4-17-02: Ward continued to focus on small prey and it again took eight or nine deliveries to satisfy June's appetite. In spite of the record 95 degree temperature today, she stayed in the nest all day. While the nest box is relatively well ventilated, the maple leaves that will block the mid-day sun in a couple of weeks are not yet out, making the nest a pretty hot place on a day like this. June did quite a bit of panting, but otherwise it was a normal day in the nest. She apparently got enough food again last night and there was no whining from the nest all day. She left the nest for a ten minute visit with Ward just after sundown and he made four food deliveries to the nest in the hour after her return. The brief heat wave is now over and much milder days are predicted for the rest of the week.
4-16-02: June has been much more vocal today with both whining and hooting from the nest and Ward even answered her with a classic hoot on one occasion. He has not, however, change his practice of delivering only very small prey items to the nest. We are now experiencing record heat and with a high of 85 degrees today and 90 predicted for tomorrow. June has therefore been doing a little panting while in the nest, but not excessively. She only climbed up to the door once and that was to snap at a squirrel that was playing on the roof. The squirrel scrambled away and June went back into the nest. As of 11pm, there had been no direct food deliveries to the nest, but June had made two exits in response to Ward's wailing in the distance.
4-13-02: There were eight deliveries to the nest last night, but they did not seem to satisfy June's appetite. She has been doing far more whining in the nest recently and it does not let up, even after a food delivery. Either the meals are very small creatures, such as tree frogs, or she is simply trying to get ahead of the rainy weather predicted for the next few days. In either case, she whined almost continuously from 3am till 7am. There have still been no calls from Ward during the day, and no classic hoots from either of them for several days.
4-11-02: After overachieving for two nights in a row, Ward has not made an appearance at the nest as of midnight tonight. While June has complained with an occasional whine, she is accustomed to an uneven food supply and has been known to go without food for more than 48 hours while incubating her eggs in past years. The weather remains ideal for hunting, so that it is likely that Ward's luck will improve soon and allow him to catch up. June appears to be getting more comfortable in the nest and didn't even bother to climb up to the door when three deer walked by the nest just after noon today. She remains totally devoted to her eggs and has spent less than ten minutes outside the nest in the last 24 hours.
4-10-02: The more June squeals, the more food Ward brings. She squealed for twenty minutes just before dawn today and Ward responded this evening by delivering five meals between sunset and midnight. This included three deliveries within a fifteen minute period; suggesting that he is hunting during the day and stashing his prey for delivery after sunset. Even though it was unseasonably warm, June left the nest only twice for a total of about 15 minutes away from her eggs in the last 24 hours..
4-9-02: Ward set a season high last night with five direct food deliveries to the door and June greeted each one with enthusiastic squealing. She has made only two departures from the nest in the last 24 hours and each lasted for less than five minutes. It was much warmer today and June looked quite relaxed as she continued to incubate her two eggs.
4-5-02: The unseasonably cold weather continued today and June again refused to expose her eggs during daylight. She did however make two brief trips outside during the night, but was back in less than fifteen minutes on both occasions. Ward could be heard hooting in the distance during both of these outings. While he made no food deliveries directly to the nest last night, June showed no sign of being anxious about it today as she slept on her eggs. When she wasn't sleeping, she spent her time gnawing on the wood chips that cover the floor in an apparent attempt to turn them into sawdust. It's hard to believe that she has not so much as climbed to the door in daylight since laying the second egg, and I'm quite anxious to see how many eggs she is hiding.
4-3-02: June is fully into the incubation of her eggs and has still not left them in daylight. Ward was very successful with his hunting last night and delivered four meals before sunrise. The last two were delivered directly to the nest where June responded with wild squealing. June's total time out of the nest in the last 24 hours has been about 25 minutes. It's raining and much cooler tonight, so that hunting should be more of a challenge.