The owl files – Chapter 2: Maternal instincts

07 August 2022

Owl update – 07 August 2022: Maternal instincts

After her strange disappearance just after the chicks had fledged last season, there have been encouraging signs that the female is FULLY engaged with the raising of the chicks this season – at least for now.

On Thursday evening (04 August), I went up onto the lookout to check on the nest and found the female perched on the lower roof near the northern corner. An Egyptian Goose landed on the closer parapet .   .  . and she promptly attacked it, driving it off in an explosion of loud honking. The female then perched on the tall palm stump in front of the Centre, alertly scanning the park around her. I climbed the ladder to check on the chicks and found the two of them huddled together with the unhatched egg. There was a partially-eaten rat plus a freshly-regurgitated pellet in the box with them.

On Friday evening (05 August), after a quick, fruitless scan for the female, I climbed the ladder to check on the chicks again. I half expected the female to be with them in the box – but as I leant forward to look into the nest, I felt a stinging thump between my shoulder blades! Where did she come from??? A quick photograph – showing the two chicks with the egg off to one side, and then I beat a hasty retreat down the ladder.

Yesterday evening (06 August), Cyn and I went up onto the roof during halftime in the rugby. The female was back on the dead palm stump – giving her a clear run at me as I stuck my head up above the wall, and I was not keen on a repeat of the previous evening’s experience. With Cynthia keeping watch on her, I headed for the ladder. Once again, as I was leaning over the wall so that I could look into the nest, she launched. Cynthia’s warning “here she comes” gave me a few seconds to brace myself – and there was another stinging thump – this time on the right side of my lower back. Again, no threat hoots or bill clicks before she attacked and, after dark, a protective owl in stealth mode is a scary thing!

Checking the nest this morning, there were a number of Speckled Mousebird wing feathers in the nest – the first time this season that the male has brought a bird.

By Geoff Lockwood