19 July 2017

2017 edition: Diary of Spotted Wood owl family

The Spotted Wood owl pair that had a baby in 2016 in my neighbourhood park, did it again this year!
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Ms Teng Wah, a neighbour, and I have been observing the family for sometime. Thanks to her, and information shared by other neighbours too. Here's some of the key highlights of the family since the baby emerged from the nest in July.


MORE photos of the owls on wildsingapore flickr.
The baby owl first emerged in early July, from the Birds' Nest fern where the mother nested. It made several forays before finally, on 7 July at sunset, it made a sprint up the more steeply sloping branch near its nest.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
It got stuck at the crook of the branch which turned almost vertically upward. It stayed at this crook all night, even through the rain. We checked on it anxiously during the night. It seemed quite settled, perching comfortably on a knob on the branch, grooming itself.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
The next day (8 July) at sunrise, in a drizzle, the baby scrambled all the way to the top of the tree!
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Later that morning, it looked quite at home among the leaves on swaying branches!
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Two days later (10 July), the juvenile made its first brief flight to another branch of the same tree. With the mother owl calling quietly to encourage it.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Over the next few days, the juvenile slowly moves to nearby trees. At dawn and sunset, we catch glimpses of it practicing flying. Initially, it basically flap-hops from branch to branch. There was one day when it missed a landing and crashed into some small branches, to the alarm of both parents nearby. The mother made little dog barks and the father a kind of loud purr.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 18 July, it is still crash landing with open wings. In this instance, the mother moved towards the juvenile who was trying to reach her.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
The parents do look after the juvenile with devotion. I managed to observe at one sunset (17 July), the juvenile making its plaintive wheezing call, when the father landed next to it. They touch faces, is he feeding it?
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Here, the juvenile comes up to the mother and literally shoves her. She grooms it and it appears to be trying to groom her back.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
A little later on, as the juvenile continues to pester her, she appears to be feeding it.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
The parents rest near the juvenile on 18 July.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Mother near the juvenile on 19 Jul.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 20 Jul, the juvenile is getting better at flying. In the morning, I saw it flying upwards. And this evening it flew from one tree to another. Although it is still a little clumsy and prefers to flap hop and walk on branches when it can.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
In the morning, the juvenile snuggled up to mom and she groomed it. It seemed to try to groom her back.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
21 Jul after dark, I got a glimpse of the juvenile appearing to rip into prey. Sorry for grainy footage.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 22 Jul, at sunrise, juvenile pesters mother for grooming.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 22 July, at sunset juvenile interrupts the parents grooming, making the mother groom him.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 23 July, we could not see any of the owls at their usual rain tree roost. For a moment, we thought the family had already left the park. But I saw the adults flying out from a low tree under the rain tree when there were a disturbance on the road. The juvenile remained in the low tree
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
That evening, the juvenile made a clumsy attempt to get out of the low tree.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 24 July, all three owls were in the low tree. It appears the mother encouraged the juvenile to roost there. By the afternoon, the father had moved up to rest in the rain tree. But mother and juvenile remained in the low tree.
Later on juvenile makes a clumsy attempt to fly out of the tree.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 25 July, the owls spent some time roosting in the low tree, but ended up in the rain tree in the evening. After the adults left, one of them came back very shortly and fed the juvenile with something fluffy. Probably a baby bird?
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 26 Jul, mother and juvenile were in the low tree, while father roosted on the tall rain tree.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
The juvenile can fly but doesn't leave the Park.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
27 July, I missed both sunrise and sunset observations. But saw all three owls roosting on the tall rain tree during the day.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 28 July, I saw the mother feed the juvenile twice! At first light, she arrived in the rain tree and the juvenile joined her. She had a fluffy prey. She ripped up pieced and fed the juvenile, but seemed to eat most of the prey and flew off with it when the juvenile pestered her.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
In the evening, very shortly after the adults left, one of them (I think it's the mother) returned with prey in one of her talons. She landed next to the juvenile, ripped out and fed bits of it to the juvenile. But the juvenile kept going for the entire prey. Mother eventually gave the entire prey to the juvenile which attempted to swallow it whole, succeeding the second attempt.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
At sunset, I observed the juvenile resting on a forked branch. Instead of 'sitting' up.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
I also saw the juvenile hack up a pellet which hit the ground with a thud. Owls throw up indigestible bits like fur, feathers and bones.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
This is what the pellet looked like. Has few bones. Adult pellets usually have many bones and large and long bones.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
The juvenile could fly well this evening.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
But it did not leave the park.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 29 July morning, before first light, heard two owls make waterfall calls. Saw father land next to the juvenile (nearly landed on top of it!). The juvenile keeps a distance, clearly not as comfortable with father as it is with mother. Unlike mother, father does not rip out small pieces to feed the juvenile, but offers it the entire prey. Eventually the juvenile takes the entire prey and father flies off. The juvenile takes a long time (about 15 minutes) to rip up the prey and attempted to swallow it at least 3 times, before finally succeeding. After which, it vigorously wiped its beak on the tree branch.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
In the evening, two adults appeared on the top of the roof near the small wild area. They appear to groom. Juvenile did not join them.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 30 Jul morning, at first light, the parents zoomed in together making waterfall call for a few seconds at the park before flying off to small wild area making waterfall calls. I heard mother making little dog calls from the roof of nearby house and saw juvenile there.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
Mother shortly flew off to small wild area
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
But the juvenile stayed for a while on the roof, before flying back to the Park. After a while, the mother came to join it. In the evening, the mother flew off and didn't come back. The baby did not fly out of the park and was wheezing all night even as late at 9.30pm.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 31 Jul, the juvenile was still in the park although we suspect it left at night and returned in the morning of 1 Aug. Mother was with the juvenile the whole time. But we did not see the father since 30 Jul morning. On 1 Aug evening, the father flew into the park and settled where the mother and baby were. He appeared to have an injury to his left eye.

This is what he looked like on 1 Aug evening.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 2 Aug, father roosted with the family in the early morning. His eye injury appears to be improving. However, he was no longer with the family since noon. And the mother did not call at sunset.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)
On 2 Aug I noticed dark feathers on the juvenile's wings and back.
Spotted Wood Owl (Strix seloputo)

3 Aug: Mama and baby in the park, glimpse of papa?


6 Aug: Mama and baby moved out of the park, no sign of papa.


8 Aug: Mama and baby moved out of the park, still no sign of papa.


27 Aug: Juvenile owl all alone?



31 Aug: Return of father owl?


The diary comes to a sad end as the juvenile owl did not make it. This is the last photo taken of him by Teng Wah before she rushed him to the Jurong Bird Park hospital.

And so this diary ends.


Hopefully, father and mother owl will reunite, and perhaps they can start a new family next year.

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