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Profile March 11th, 2010

 

McGee and Molly
A Love Story

photoOlder readers of The Paper will remember an old radio show, Fibber McGee and Molly. Younger readers will have to look it up on the Internet.

We have our own McGee and Molly show right here in North County, thanks to Carlos and Donna Royal of San Marcos.

Their eco-friendly backyard is home to many birds, bluebirds, herons, hawks, vultures, kestrels, Western bluebirds, and, now, barn owls.

Yes, after having an ‘owl box’ installed and vacant for two years, McGee and Molly have taken up residence; what’s more they are about to become parents. There are six eggs that should hatch in mid-March.

Carlos has installed two webcams so interested bird watchers can check in throughout the day and night and see how Molly is faring. She sits on the eggs to incubate them. She will turn the eggs several times a day so they don’t have cool spots. McGee is out hunting and will bring mice, moles, other wild life for a tasty meal.

One of the two cameras is an infrared cam so you can watch at night as well. To observe the life of McGee and Molly, go to: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-owl-box

In addition to viewing the owls you will also have a chat facility to visit with people around the world, all of whom are tuning in to see what the owls are up to and if the eggs have hatched yet.

One teacher from Ohio showed his fifth grade class the live video showing of the owls; there is also sound so you can hear them squawk, sometimes with rather lively conversations.

From time to time McGee will return, mount Molly and mate. The mating takes about 15 seconds. They will mate five to six times a day.

Owls mate for life so when McGee is out flying around, he’s not fliriting with other owls; he’s hunting, looking for food to feed his lady and, eventually, his owlets.

Carlos Royal has estimated he will have reached the 100,000 viewer number as of last weekend. Word is spreading and more and more viewers tune in every day, including this one. If someone had told me that I’d spend up to three hours a day watching an owl sit on eggs, I’d have though they were nuts. But, there I was, watching a female owl, sitting on her eggs, and wondering when that rascal, McGee, would return, with food. I went to bed at 11pm and was worried. Had McGee been injured? Hit by a car? Killed? If so, how would Molly survive? If she left the nest and box the owlets would likely not hatch.

Oh, the drama of it all!

photo  photo

Next morning, all was better. McGee had returned with a mouse . . . and Molly tore into it with relish. She was one hungry bird.

Carlos and Donna Royal had erected their owl box two years ago . . . and it was only just recently that the owls set up housekeeping. We have an owl box that we’ve had for three to four years . . . still no occupants, and we’d love them to come in! We have a yard full of moles and gophers . . . tasty morsels for owls. It is said if you have a nesting pair of owls, you will not have rodent problems for a large area of your neighborhood.

The owl box is 15 feet off the ground. Molly appears to be a first time mom. The owl is about 14 inches tall. She laid her first egg on February 13th. Owlets around mid to late March. Incubation is 30 to 34 days. Owlets will hatch in order laid. Not all at one time like chickens.

The male has a white chest and face. He usually shows up after dark but has spent an entire day with the female. The Barn Owl is widespread but usually a scarce species. They are strictly nocturnal and rarely observed in flight during daylight hours.

The owl house is located on a 15 foot pole and there is a tree just outside the opening. No other birds have tried to nest in the box. The Royals live on an acre lot with lots of trees and plants for wildlife. They do not have any cats or dogs to disturb the wildlife. This is their first owl to nest here. They have identified 58 different birds in their yard.

photoBarn Owl Specs:

Female: 13 to 16 inches tall. Wingspan 43 inches
Male: 12 to 15 inches tall. Wingspan 42 inches

Warning! Watching these owls can become very addictive!

 

 

 

 

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