Nestcam Diary 2009

October 2009

31st – after recent unresolved technical difficulties it has been decided to stop streaming the wild Barn Owl webcams for this year. We very much hope you enjoyed watching the cams, and will wish to do so again next year. We are hoping to start streaming again as soon as activity around the nesting barn starts to increase so that we capture the whole breeding cycle, including pair-bonding and pre-laying behaviour.

Belated news concerns the failure of the 2nd brood at the beginning of the month. This was not wholly unexpected with such a late brood.

2nd – the now confirmed male of the resident pair was again in the barn mid-evening, having been seen flying in from the direction of the second nest site.

1st – several viewers report seeing a Barn Owl on barncam last night roosting on one of the front beams between about 8.00pm and 11.00pm at least. We’re pretty sure now this is the male of the resident pair having a quick rest before going out foraging. Unfortunately we’ve had no further updates on the progress of the second clutch other than to say the female is still sitting tight so we’re assuming she has at least one owlet. We will of course let you know if/when we hear anything.

September 2009

28th – the unidentified Barn Owl was back in the barn over the weekend. Last night the male of the pair was specifically identified, briefly on the tray, so it’s probably safe to assume that all observations are of him.

There is no further news on the second clutch nearby as viewing is extremely difficult, but the female still seems to be brooding, although we’re not sure exactly how many eggs have actually hatched.

23rd – the unidentified Barn Owl (possibly the adult male of the resident pair?) made another brief appearance in the barn last night at about 7.40pm.

2nd clutch update
The first egg hatched some time over the weekend, with the second egg due to hatch any time if it’s fertile. We’ll try to keep you informed of all major developments as and when they occur.

Incidentally, a Barn Owl of unknown origin was apparently in the barn last night at 11.25pm roosting on the front beam.

21st – sad news was received over the weekend concerning the eldest owlet. FB25606 (with black over white colour rings on the right leg) dispersed from the barn around the 10th of August but was found dead approximately 4km away in a northeasterly direction some 5-6 weeks later, presumed starved.

18th – the youngest owlet hasn’t been seen now for over a week, so let’s hope that at 18 weeks old today it’s finally gone!

9th – the youngest owlet returned to the nestbox overnight after an absence of nearly a week and was still at roost there this morning, with another (unidentified) owl in the barn at the same time briefly.

The female is still incubating the second clutch of eggs nearby and all seems well so far.

3rd – the second clutch now appears to be complete at 3 eggs, laid between the 22nd and 29th of August. As of the 3rd, the female was still sitting, but whether anything will come of it remains to be seen. We hope to keep interested viewers updated of all major events as and when they occur.

2nd – the youngest owlet is still in the nestbox today. It will be 16 weeks old on the 4th, and still has not dispersed despite the literature stating the main dispersal period is between 10 and 14 weeks of age. It will be interesting to see how long it actually stays about.

Incidentally, the adults have laid a second clutch of eggs at a site nearby, which is something of a surprise as it has generally been a below average year in terms of productivity.

August 2009

21st – for this past week the youngest owlet has been seen daily either in the nestbox or on the barn beam. Normal dispersal occurs between 10 and 14 weeks after hatching. The owlet is now 14 weeks old so it is likely that we will not be seeing it for very much longer.

17th – the youngest owlet has put in an appearance over the weekend and is in the nestbox this morning, clearly showing a BTO ring on its left leg and black over black colour rings on the right.

13th – we have had no reports of the youngest owlet being seen since Monday so perhaps it too has begun its journey to find its own home range, and, if it survives the winter, perhaps a mate and nest site.

10th – it seems that the middle and eldest owlets have not been seen in the barn for the last week which suggests that they may now have started their dispersal. The youngest owlet can still be seen in the barn but it could disperse any time soon.

3rd – it looks as if the time of dispersal is drawing ever closer. The middle owlet has started to roost elsewhere during the day, leaving the youngest alone for most of the daylight hours. All three owlets are still returning to the nestbox on some evenings. On friday night at around 10:30 pm, all three owlets were seen outside the box. The parents will soon stop returning to the nest, leaving the three youngsters to fend for themselves.

July 2009

29th – all three owlets were seen for about half an hour last night. In a short period of intense activity from about 10:00pm, the adult birds fed all three of the youngsters. It’s good to see that the parents are still managing to hunt successfully, despite the recent period of wet weather.

28th – only the youngest owlet is in the nestbox this morning. The adults still seem to be feeding it as there was at least one small mammal in the nestbox mid-morning. We have had several reports of all three owlets being on the tray together last night. It would seem that the eldest owlet is still around, even if he does only visit briefly these days.

27th – at least two owlets are still about, frequenting the nestbox but also spending much time roosting on the beams, and despite the weather all seems well. We haven’t seen the oldest owlet now for a few days so it may be that it has finally started dispersing.

24th – all three young owls were seen on the tray on Monday night. This will become an increasingly rare sight. The eldest owlet is eleven weeks old today, and as dispersal typically takes place at between ten and fourteen weeks, his time at the nest site is drawing to a close. He will be becoming less reliant on the adult birds for food, and he may well have captured his first prey item on his own by now. In Britain young Barn Owls will often disperse twelve kilometres or more from the nest site to find a home range of their own. Once he flies the nest we are unlikely to see him again unless we are lucky enough to find him at his own nest site sometime in the future.

20th – a nestcam viewer reporting seeing the youngest owlet flying on Saturday night. It apparently jumped from the nestbox to the floor, climbed back up partially on the ladder and then flew the rest of the way back to the nestbox stopping for a mini-break on a beam! Wonderful news. We also had news of continuing food deliveries, which is also good to know considering the inclement weather we have had lately.

The structure of adult Barn Owl feathers is adapted for silent flight and this makes them prone to waterlogging so are consequently not suited to hunting in wet weather. Therefore, prolonged periods of wet weather can force hungry owlets that are awaiting food deliveries from the adults, to leave the nest early in search of food. It has been very busy at the Trust lately with emaciated fallen owlets being brought in or people ringing up for advice on what to do. The best thing to do for an owlet is to place it back into the nest, provided the adults are still returning with food and it has not sustained an injury.

If you are unsure about how to check a fallen owlet over, please take a look at our leaflet >>>

Furthermore, nestbox design is hugely important, as most fallen owlets come from flat boxes, where the access hole is low and owlets can get out at will >>>

A much safer ‘deep’ design can be found here >>>
If in doubt on the best course of action, please ring the Barn Owl Trust for advice.

17th – all three owlets were in full view in the barn mid-afternoon, on the nestbox tray and surrounding beams, and later all in the nestbox. However, torrential rain and gale force winds are causing the stream to drop out regularly. Sorry about this, we are doing our best to keep it up and running.

15th – the nestcam is now back up and running. We have had reports of all three owlets sitting on the nestbox tray at around 23.55pm last night. The youngest owlet’s plumage is also starting to develop nicely – do let us know if you see it fly off the tray.

POWER CUT SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY 14th JULY: essential work is being carried out on the electricity distribution system at the farm where the nestcam is located. Unfortunately, this will affect footage between the hours of 8:00 and 5:00pm approximately.

13th – we have had reports of all three owlets out on the nestbox tray during the weekend. The eldest and middle owlets also seem to have been out flying around the barn. Please rest assured that the youngest owlet is developing well and there is no need for any concern.

9th – the eldest is spending a lot of time outside the nestbox. We originally thought that it may have dispersed to fend for itself. However, we have now received a report that all three owlets were seen last night perched on the tray. Please do let us know if you catch any further glimpses of the eldest owlet.

8th – the owlets are eating very well indeed. The two younger owlets were seen picking up two items from the food cache in the nestbox between 7:30 and 8:30 this morning.

7th – the youngest owlet was seen jumping up to the hole and scrambling out on to the tray at around 12:30am. Just before 1:00pm the two eldest owlets were in the barn, out of sight of the cameras. This is likely to become a regular occurrence.

5th – the middle owlet took her first flight today at 8:00pm.

4th – all three owlets were spotted out on the tray at 9:44pm. A little while later at 10:30pm, the youngest owlet was seen eating a prey item.

3rd – the eldest owlet has been in and out of the nestbox many times today. We still have not seen the youngest owlet exit the box during the daytime.

2nd – two fantastic pieces of news to report. Firstly, the eldest owlet took its first flight last night. He was spotted flying from beam to beam, and also down to the floor of the barn. Secondly, both the middle and youngest owlets have been seen perched on the outside tray of the nestbox. These developments took place between 9:00 and 10:00 pm last night.

1st – the eldest owlet is now beginning to spend much of its time on the tray of the nestbox, whilst the others seem relatively content inside. We’re keeping our eyes open for its first flight, which shouldn’t be too long in coming.

June 2009

30th – all three owlets have been preening each other a lot this morning. At approximately 14:50 the eldest owlet jumped up to the nestbox hole and perched on the tray.

29th – the two older owlets have both been out of the box and were seen sitting on the tray over the weekend. This has lead to some concern as to whether the youngest owlet will get any food. However, this morning it was watched eating a small mammal cached in the nestbox so the adults are still clearly bringing food into it.

26th – he made it! We saw the eldest owlet perched in the nestbox entrance hole today. One viewer reported that he first got up there just after 21:00 yesterday. However he’s still spending nearly all his time in the box. This pattern of returning to the nest usually continues for a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to watch Barncam and see him exploring the outside of the box.

23rd – this morning the eldest owlet was extremely energetic with its wing flapping exercises, but we were surprised that it made no attempt to jump up to the entrance hole. If you see it intentionally jumping up or if you see it get out, please do let us know straight away by emailing

WEBCAM PROBLEMS – for those of you who are interested, we thought you may like to know why we’ve had so much down-time. To start with the images were being ‘pushed’ from the farm to the WBC Server and the encoding kept dropping out and had to be manually restarted which was very frustrating. The dropping out was probably caused by lack of bandwidth (variations in local broadband usage). To improve things we changed to a ‘pull’ system which would automatically restart the encoding. This flagged up problems with the computer at the farm which had to have everything re-installed twice. It turned out that these problems were due to automatic Windows updates that conflicted with the running of Windows Media Encoder. The farm was also plagued by local power cuts and every time the power came back on the broadband connection had to be manually restarted. We’ve managed to sort this and have prevented further Windows updates being downloaded. Our only current problem is that the program we are using that enables us to remotely control the computer at the farm sometimes causes the encoding to drop out. Also the farm is due for an all-day power cut on 14th July. So it goes on! Thanks for your patience.

22nd – today we checked the owlets and BTO-ringed them. We are very pleased to say that all three are doing extremely well, with weights varying from 363g to 435g. The eldest owlet is a male and the middle owlet is a female. The sex of the youngest owlet is still not confirmed. As well as the BTO ring, we fitted them with plastic colour rings to enable individuals to be identified as follows: eldest owlet black over white, middle owlet white over black, and youngest owlet black over black (all on the left leg). BTO ringing provides essential information for population monitoring. If you ever find any kind of wild bird please check to see if it’s ringed.

19th – the eldest owlet is 6 weeks old today! If you look carefully you can see that he is fairly well feathered underneath all that down, with wings and tail coming along nicely. Wing exercising is frequent, as is preening.

At 4.45pm the smallest owlet ate an extremely large small mammal, possibly a male Field Vole or perhaps a young Brown Rat. It managed to get it down eventually then sat, looking very full.

17th – this morning the eldest owlet ate a whole mammal between bouts of wing exercises.

12th – all owlets seem to be doing well. The eldest was observed standing on one leg yesterday, just like the adults.

11th – the oldest owlet has been quite active recently. At 9:55am it was seen exercising its wings after helping itelf to a good meal. Last night at 17:30, one of our viewers witnessed the same owlet attempting to jump up at the nestbox hole. It hasn’t suceeded – yet.

10th – finally, we’re back on line! By this evening, both cameras should be viewable and hopefully for good this time! Apologies for any inconvenience caused. We’ve thrown significant resources at the problem and hope that this has finally sorted things out.

All three owlets are very much alive and doing well, and it’s amazing how much they’ve grown in the time we’ve been unable to watch them. The next big milestone will be when the oldest owlet starts jumping up at the hole. Please do let us know when this happens.


4th – the youngest owlet has been eating well again today. It was fed at 8:50am and again mid-morning. Just before 2:50pm the female left the nestbox, leaving the owlets huddled together awaiting her return. Now that they have their mesoptile down they can maintain their body temperatures even in her absence.

3rd – a viewer reports the youngest owlet being given another small mammal, which it swallowed whole at 10.23pm last night. This morning at 8.15am and then again at 11.13am, the female was watched ripping up another small mammal and feeding the youngest owlet, all good news.

2nd – this morning at 10.20am the female responded to the youngest owlet’s begging calls by ripping up a cached Field Vole and feeding it. This happened again at about 1.40pm with another cached vole.

Please note that under these circumstances it would be illegal to remove the owlet from the nestbox. We must therefore trust that the female will continue to feed the youngest owlet as has been the case up til now.

1st – many thanks for all the emails received over the weekend from all over the world! Food appears to be in plentiful supply, and all three owlets are doing well. We even received reports that the eldest and middle owlets were seen to pass food to the youngest owlet!

Unfortunately we are still having problems with Barncam, but are trying to rectify the problem, apologies for this.

Someone has expressed concern that the youngest owlet may not be receiving enough food. This is what we wrote last year when the same question was posed;

“Someone asked – will we intervene? This is a difficult issue. On the one hand we want to let nature take its course and it was always our intention to let you see exactly what happens in a natural situation. On the other hand, we do put a lot of effort into saving the lives of individual birds (casualties etc.) so why not try and save all the Nestcam nestlings?

Provided that the amount of mortality is typical of what happens in the wild we intend to let nature take its course. However, if no food was arriving at all and the young were dying then obviously we would intervene”.

May 2009

30th – we can confirm that the female went out hunting tonight, as she returned with a food item whilst the male was in the nestbox with another. Owlet number 2 has also been seen to swallow prey whole, and Owlet 1 was watched helping itself to stored food.

29th – in the early hours at about 3am a viewer reports watching the male bring in what sounds like a huge Field Vole. After some trouble, the eldest owlet apparently managed to eat it whole. Furthermore, later this morning at about 10.30am the female fed pieces of small mammal cached in the box to the youngest owl. Food availability is therefore currently good, and the three owlets appear to be doing well.

Viewers may be concerned to see the owlets lying around in the nestbox. This also happened last year, most often during periods of warm weather, but also after feeding. This is probably natural behaviour and may aid digestion, so please do try not to worry.

27th – the female left the nestbox last night and returned with a food item. Whether this was passed to her by the male or not is uncertain. However, clearly there was sufficient food caught overnight to allow the female to feed the owlets again at about 9 o’clock this morning.

26th – full service has now been resumed! Both Barncam and Nestcam are streaming as normal and we now look forward to more prolonged views of the owlets. All three are still doing well so fingers crossed!

24th – after all kinds of technical problems we are now watching Nestcam on the Barncam link – Some great views of the oldest owlets at 8.00am. It now has its eyes open and was toddling around Mum, it doesn’t entirely fit underneath her anymore. Watching her trying to get comfortable with such a wriggler was reminiscent of being the parent of a human toddler. The smallest owlet is tiny in comparison. With it being so warm today we expect there will be several opportunities to see the young, as they won’t need to be brooded constantly.

22nd – barncam is now up and streaming! Swap between nestcam and barncam for views of the male bringing food into the barn, before popping into the nestbox.

All three owlets seem to be okay so far. The eldest, now two weeks old today, is nearly too big to fit comfortably under the brooding female and it won’t be long before it won’t need to be kept warm by her. We should therefore expect to see more of the developing owlets in the near future.

20th – one of our sharp-eyed viewers spotted the male returning to the nest with a prey item twice within five minutes at about 10:40pm last night. Hopefully this is an indication that food availability is good at the moment.

19th – despite torrential rain and gale force winds the last couple of nights, the male was seen to pass a food item to the female at about 9am. We didn’t see what she did with it but think she may have passed it to the eldest owlet. If anyone saw what happened, please let us know. This has put our minds at rest for the time being that all the owlets are being provided with a good supply of food, essential at this stage of their development.

15th – 3rd egg hatched! We got out first confirmed views of the third hatchling at lunchtime today but apparently the egg hatched just before 8 o’clock this morning.

Owlet development in Barn Owls is comparatively slow. The owlets will need to be brooded by the female for the next 2-3 weeks to keep them warm, thereafter they will be able to regulate their own body temperatures. This means that the parents will not necessarily be in the nextbox with them, as they will be roosting elsewhere getting much-needed peace and quiet after their busy nocturnal foraging trips. Fledging will not occur for another 7-8 weeks, if all goes well.

11th – Second egg hatched some time between 5pm and 7.30pm. Female has been as attentive as ever and is brooding diligently. Hopefully the third egg will also hatch, on or around 14th.

8th – The problems we have been experiencing with our webcam have finally been fixed and just in time as well…. at around 3am this morning, the first egg hatched!! We are yet to catch a glimpse of the new owlet but will be keeping a close watch on our monitors here at the Barn Owl Trust.

6th – We are hoping the problems with our webcam are going to be sorted out very soon but in the meantime we are getting rather excited at the prospect of the first egg hatching. Barn Owls are asynchronous egg-layers so the eggs will hatch several days apart and the average incubation period is 31-32 days. The first egg was layed on the 7th April so should hatch on the 8th or 9th May… keep your eyes peeled!

April 2009

23rd – Nice to see the male in the box today – notice how much paler he is than the female. Interestingly, she IS the same female as last year (we know this because she’s colour ringed) but we don’t know if it’s the same male.

23rd – Webcam problem update. Since 16th April the encoding has been dropping out (the screen goes black) frequently and we’ve been restarting it as often as we can – somtimes every few minutes. According to BT, the reason it drops out is to do with the amount of broadband use in the local area where the farm is situated – in other words there’s nothing we or they can do about it – sorry!

22nd – we are still having the problem with our webcams and we are having to manually restart the encoding. Fingers crossed we can keep the image streaming at least whilst we are here during the day!

The male was in the nestbox this morning, which was a surprise as he has not been roosting in the nestbox during the day lately. The female is still only on 3 eggs so we are quite confident that she has finished laying. There was a Wood Mouse cached near the camera this morning but it has gone now; we missed who ate it though!

20th – unfortunately we are still having problems with our webcams and it has not worked properly all weekend. The fault is to do with the encoding of the live stream – The encoding repeatedly ‘drops out’ and has to be manually restarted. Apologies to all who have been avid viewers and we shall rectify the problem as soon as possible!

18th – experiencing problems with our webcams despite attempts to rectify.

17th – despite our optimism, views this morning seem to confirm that the female has stopped laying as she still has three eggs. Average clutch size is 5.6, so this is well below the average, and is something of a disappointment. Let’s hope she’ll be successful with the whole clutch.

Incubation is typically 31-32 days, which means that the first egg should hatch on or around the 8th of May, if all goes to plan.

15th – the male spent the day in the nestbox with the female yesterday, the first time this has happened for over a week.

14th – third egg laid! A report from a viewer this morning informed us that she laid some time yesterday evening, as the third egg was first noticed at about 9.30pm. The male still appears to be catching enough food, and copulation is frequent, all good news.

There was a Field Vole cached in the box under the entrance hole early this morning, which the female started to eat at about 10.00am, but did not finish.

13th – the third egg was due some time today but at 8.15pm there are still ony 2 eggs. Has she now finished her clutch?

12th – the male now seems to roost elsewhere during the day, visiting early evening to copulate before heading off on his foraging trips. There doesn’t appear to be any spare food cached in the nestbox – is he finding enough?

10th – brief views this morning of the second egg, laid some time between midnight and 10.30am. The male delivered at least one food item during the early hours and copulation occurred thereafter. Fingers crossed she’ll add to her clutch. Next egg due Easter Monday.

9th – 4.50pm and no second egg yet. Will she lay again, and if so, when?

8th – at 04:50 this morning the male was seen leaving the nestbox with a food item. This was presumably from a food cache in the box and is an encouraging sign that the female is well-fed and will therefore continue to lay.

Egg-laying is asynchronous, that is, does not happen at the same time, but occurs at 2-3 day intervals. If she does continue with her clutch, we can expect the next egg some time tomorrow.

7th – the news we have been waiting for… at 9.30am the female got up to move around and there it was, the first egg!! Great news. There was no egg at midnight last night but, according to the Forum, by 7.45am this morning she had laid. Does anyone have an exact time for the egg laying?

6th – at 9.30am the female was still busily breaking up pellets on to which she will hopefully soon lay an egg! As well as bones, the regurgitated pellets also contain a lot of fur. This makes the pellet debris incredibly absorbent, acting as a giant nappy so the owlets do not get coated in their own droppings.

5th – the female pelleted at 7.33pm then immediately afterwards took a Field Vole from the food cache in the left-hand corner of the nestbox.

4th – the male is still not roosting in the nestbox during the day but he has been seen in and around the nestbox at night.

3rd – unusually, only the female is in the box this morning. Perhaps the male is roosting nearby?

3.40pm, and the female produced a pellet. Pellets are the regurgitated remains of the small mammals that the weak stomach acid doesn’t dissolve, and this is a sign that she ate last night. Once dry, the pellet will eventually become part of the debris upon which she will hopefully lay her clutch.

2nd – more mutual preening this morning. Copulation occurred at 10.25am, without any food being presented before or afterwards.

March 2009

31st – copulation at 2.10pm was swiftly followed by the female consuming a food item at 2.25pm. This was presumably from a food cache in the nestbox and is a positive sign. It means that the male had been able to catch more food last night than either of them required. Whether nesting occurs or not will largely depend on food availability so let’s hope the male can continue to provide for the female.

30th – the pair are still in the nestbox during the day, whilst they are at roost. There has been the occasional bout of mutual preening, and some pellet re-arranging by the female, which are both good signs; re-inforcing the pair bond and possibly preparing the site for nesting(?). The male is the paler bird, less heavily marked than the female.

27th – still in the nestbox during the day, and much activity after dark, with frequent copulation, even without food being delivered on every occasion. The female was again observed ‘scraping’ the pellet debris with her feet. This constitutes nest making, as Barn Owls do not use any conventional nesting material, but lay their eggs straight onto the debris. This is a good sign. However, a period of inclement weather, resulting in a reduction in foraging success, could be enough at this stage to deter any nesting attempt. Fingers crossed!

25th – the pair is again in the nestbox this morning.

24th – Barncam and Nestcam go live with both the male and the female in the nestbox!

In the past couple of weeks, the pair has been spending about 50% of their time in the nestbox. However, the female was observed moving pellets around and ‘scraping’ the pellet debris for the first time today so we have everything crossed for this breeding season.

Last night at about 9.00pm the male delivered a food item to the nestbox and copulation occurred inside. Subsequently, the female spent her time on the tray of the box waiting for the male to bring in more food.

Welcome to the Barn Owl Trust’s 2009 wild Barn Owl webcams! After the success of last year’s nesting we are hoping for another successful season this summer. There’s no guarantee this year of course but we’re hopeful that this pair will have another brood of owlets. If you have any questions about any aspect of Barn Owl conservation, there’s a huge amount of information on our website. Enjoy!