Saturday, April 3, 2010

Response to questions in comment section

Hi! Thanks for all the comments! I think this is a place where we can have longer discussions about what's going on in Molly's world.

I guess I didn't see the entire rabbit episode. I only saw the part where she takes the rabbit outside. I think she was eating it out there, based on the yum yum sounds she was making intermittently. That sound is usually associated only with having a tasty morsel in her mouth.

I agree that it may have been "off". It was probably getting gamey/old, and maybe she was able to handle eating it but would not feed something that challenging to little babies.Wesley would occasionally eat day old or slightly off food. She seems to give almost all the food that comes in to the babies. I know they lose a lot of weight when they're in there feeding babies and that they only eat enough to subsist, so that the babies have the maximum amount of food.

I noticed that last night or this morning she was eating on that rat carcass, but she wasn't eating the choice chunks, she was eating mostly skin and fur, having given the best to the babies. But if she is eating the occasional head, that's good nutrition for her Also, she has to get all her water from the prey! Owls rarely approach water in the wild, although there have been rare observations of them bathing.

There's so much yet to learn! The learning never ends! That's what I absolutely LOVE about being a biologists - you can never know everything because these are living, thinking beings and they have their own individual outlook, and will do their own creative behaviors that you've never seen before. I always say that Wesley was always 2 steps ahead of me in terms of me finally realizing what he was up to or thinking or even doing. That feeling of amazement is addicting. And what is more stunningly gorgeous, or more openhearted and expressive than a barn owl.

About the mouse escape, I think she thought it was paralyzed like the mice her parents used to bring her. It was sort of playing dead, although she had to know it was alive! Unless she was so distracted by the babies that she didn't notice anything. I couldn't see it breathing when it was in her talons. Her expression was priceless. The mouses' expression was equally priceless! That is some great footage!

Carlos ought to submit it to Animal Planet's funniest animal videos, although maybe it wouldn't go over well w/ suburban America. I wonder if she caught it outside and ate it or if it got away. I kind of think it earned a new life.

About the egg - I doubt it will hatch, but never say never. It's pretty normal to have some non-viable eggs in amongst the viable ones, and for them not to hatch. It doesn't seem to bother the female, who is so busy w/ her living babies that she can't fret over a dead egg. Also, a dead egg will not be talking to her, so she's not bonding with anyone inside or expecting it to hatch. We'll see though

The babies grow sooo fast! I could see in the morning that Wesley was bigger than he had been the night before. I know that babies are capable of eating 6-7 mice per night once they get a little bigger. Right now they are easier because they're smaller. That's good! It gives the mom time to ramp up to the big time, when it will be crowded and rowdy in the nest.

I also noticed her looking at the rabbit and shaking her head, which they do when they are having trouble making a decision or when something is perturbing to them.

Man, I'm tired! It's so exciting to stay up and watch the owls!

Here's what happens when there's not enough food: The most aggressive (ie. the biggest, the firstborn) baby grabs the first bits of food.l He is fed until he stops grabbing for food, then the next most aggressive baby is grabbing from her beak..and this pattern continues until all the babies are fed, hopefully.

If there's not enough food, though, the littlest and least aggressive baby goes without. In a bad year, the littlest ones will starve, but this is better than letting all the babies starve. I hope that doesn't happen here - I don't think anyone is going to go hungry - McGee is an excellent hunter and there is tons of prey in San Marcos.

-Stacey O'Brien


Bonnie said...

So glad to discover your blog after you posted in Molly's Box! Thank you for offering your insight to those of us who have been drawn into Molly's world. I bought your book today and can't wait to read it.

Cindi said...

Thank you Stacey for your comments about Molly and McGee. Tonight McGee brought a live (and rather big) rabbit. This is the second night that he has started to bring in live prey. What's up with that?

gimpy said...

it's been so amazing to see so much owl behavior after reading about it in your book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Stacey, thanks so much for your blog and book, you have a new fan of your site!

Last night something spooked Molly and she took off quite fast, right in the middle of feeding the owlets. Start here on this recording at the 5:00 minute mark -

I'd like to hear your take on this behavior. She was gone more than 10 minutes after this. I believe this was after the live bunny was brought up as well. My concern was that she sensed a Great Horned Owl nearby but would she really charge towards the nest opening like that? What would she do if a GHO came upon their nest? What would the GHO do? Thanks!

Ter-o-fla said...

i am also so glad that you chimed in here about this, Stacey. I read your book awhile ago and loved it. Now I am nearly addicted to the owl cam with Molly and co. I live in Germany, so I mostly see the night-time bits. It is truely fascinating and it is wonderful for us to be able to watch this. Most of us would never ever get a chance to see wildlife this close-up and then discuss about it!
thank you for taking the time to answer questions here.

Charlotte said...

I'M THRILLED that you've found Molly and her babies, Stacey! I finished reading "Wesley the Owl" and was still feeling sadness that I'd finished the book (FANTASTIC love story!!) when someone sent me the link to Molly's nestbox. I posted the link to wesley's facebook page but am not sure you're on that site these days. Thanks SO much for writing of your wonderful years with Wesley and for joining in the blog thing here.. I SO hoped that you'd tune in and we'd be able to hear your insights regarding some of the happenings and behaviors happening within Molly and McGee's nestbox!!

gimpy said...

Something spooked molly (or irritated her) last night and I think they have video of it now that they periodically post in the chatroom. Carlos apparently thinks it might have been another barn owl hunting.
you might have addressed this in your book and I don't remember, but just how territorial are they? I think there's another pair in San Marcos.

gimpy said...

question: the owlets have vulture-like beaks. Do the adult beaks turn down as they grow, or does it just look that way when feathers are present?

kasm said...

Hi Stacey,
Last night was quite an interesting night. The best yet. There was so much new behavior, I just kept wishing I spoke owl. It does look like something shocks Molly, in Itacri's pre posted link. Ive never seen her rush out with no hesitation, and the sound she made was so different. I cant wait to hear your comments on that one. I'm convinced Molly never left the perch during the time she’s out of view. The sounds are so strange, sounding closer then further, I think some of them are coming from McGee. It all, absolutely seemed defensive. The live bunny incident is one you definitely cant miss, assuming Carlos recorded it. Cant wait to hear your thoughts. I hope you're doing well.

gimpy said...

Carlos came on the camera earlier today and said (if I understood right) that he thought there wasn't really a predator, and that the loud racket that Molly was making might have been some communication between her and McGee.

the 'live rabbit' episode wasn't recorded, there was a webcam glitch at the same time as that was happening.

it's just stunning how fast the owlets are growing. Pattison looks almost the size of your pictures of Wesley when you met him. Very alert, still clumsy, but so adorable.

It's really interesting watching the owlets sit back on the "elbows" (I think?) of their legs. They hardly seem to use their actual feet yet. It looks like a butt-and-two-elbows tripod, which doesn't look so stable.

here's a question that's come up for me- how well can they groom themselves of bugs? It seems like eating all those rats would let at least a few fleas/ticks/lice loose in the box. I know that the fluff in the box is pre-digested but surely a few bugs get away.