Back in September I posted on this blog about about some extremely late-born Barn Owl chicks (see "very late new-born owl chicks"), and said I let my reader know what the outcome was.
In that report I stated that there was no food in the nest, and that the male bird had not been seen for three days. I'm sorry to say that the male bird was never seen again, leaving the female to look after her brood by herself. Whether the male abandoned his family or met with an untimely end, we will never know. Anyway, the situation became quite desperate and, in spite of efforts by the landowner to assist by supplementing the female's efforts with the occasional supply of mice, the brood dwindled down to two surviving chicks.
The two chicks matured enough to be ringed and, eventually, both chicks made it out onto the ledge just below the nest-box entrance. However, whilst they were being observed on camera, the female returned with food and in the ensuing scrabble for a meal both chicks fell off the ledge. One was seen to return, but the second (a significantly smaller bird) didn't re-appear.
The next day, a search revealed the second chick on a branch above the middle of a brook, clearly unable to fly back home. The landowner's son was lowered into the brook in a bucket and the owlet retrieved, and returned to the nest box.
A few days later and the turmoil on the ledge was repeated when the female returned with food. Again the smallest of the owlets fell, and was not seen to return. However, this time the outcome was not so fortunate. The bird was found dead nearby.
It was always going to be touch and go whether these chicks hatched, or survived with the eggs being laid so late. However, considering the actual circumstances with no male bird there to assist with the feeding, I think that it's a miracle that one bird was raised to fully-fledged status. It now has the rigours of the winter to contend with, and I wish it all the best of luck.