This is the fourth year that the tawnies were to nest in our box at YewView. The custom built box, with three cameras, has been adapted and improved over the years and , this year, I had installed the best camera to date inside. Normally, I have to spend a lot of time getting the camera pre-focused for the interior of the box, which is difficult. You have to predict where the bird is going to sit and, if you get it wrong, then you can’t do anything about it once they are inside. Technology is moving on a pace and, when Hikvision said they’d loan me a few cameras for this season, I was keen to see how some of the new dome CCTV cameras would cope inside. Close focus is critical and this box is only 50cm wide. This camera will focus really close and, yet was still able to show the full interior of the box. What is different about this camera is that I can log into it from the PC and then focus and zoom it from the browser! As you can imagine, this makes a massive difference regarding set-up. As long as I am sure the camera is able to cope with the small space, I do. not have to worry about focusing it and getting it spot on (often when I am balanced high up in a tree!)
You can imagine my delight, when the tawnies showed all the right signs about breeding. Slightly earlier than usual, the female started laying and, on the second egg, she started incubating. They usually incubate on the penultimate egg, so I was not surprised to see a third appear. All was looking good.
Then things changed.
Looking back on a week’s footage, when I got on site, I could see that the female had been in the box, but after incubating for about 5 days, she was now in the box, but not on the eggs. This has remained the case for the last week. Sometimes she would spend all day in the box, roosting, sometimes not. When she was in the box, she would not sit on the eggs at all. Food was coming in and both male and female have been seen and heard around the box. The image was looking fantastic!
So, what has gone wrong?
We will never know for sure. The only thing that is different, to previous years, is the huge amount of flooding on site. This will have certainly affected their normal hunting grounds. But would that have caused her to suddenly abort her incubation? The other option could have been that she was ill in some way. For a few days, she sat quite still and quite fluffed up. To be honest, she often looks like that when roosting, especially when it is cold.
Whatever the reason, we still seem to have a healthy tawny pair…. but three non-viable eggs. The fact that both owls are still visiting gives me a slither of hope that they may try again, especially as the flood waters have subsided and their normal hunting grounds are there again. Only time will tell. We will keep our fingers crossed!
Here are a selection of clips, lifted from last week. I am thrilled with the image this camera is delivering… just a shame we may not be able to see owlets in there too. May be it will give me a window to sort out the microphone, which is not working, You can see her calling in this video.
The IR on this box is amazing, considering what a small space it is! Gone are the days of burn-out! Here, a mouse is brought in and consumed in the box.
Here, a dunnock is brought in…
The camera facing the entrance has an internal microphone. The interaction of calls is fascinating!
I am also trying out a Hikvision ColourVu camera on the badger feeding station. This is the bullet version of the camera. It has white LEDs that come on at night. I had them on full power this week, which has been a bit too harsh, especially when they came close. I have lowered the intensity now. These two very muddy badgers gave me my first indication of how good this camera will be….