I gave up on the barn owls quite some time ago, probably almost a month ago. The female had been sitting for well over a month, I'd never heard babies, and then I stopped seeing her at all. No fresh pellets or droppings or dead stuff in the barn, and not once did I ever see the male. I figured nothing had hatched, for any multitude of reasons. I hear owls at night, but hadn't seen any around the barn for a long time.
Shortly before I left for Blade Show, I was out in the barn and thought I heard something thumping around in the owl nest box. I made a lot of noise, nothing flew out, so I figured sound was just bouncing off the wall or something.
Early this afternoon I was out in the barn visiting the horses with a friend, and I heard something in the owl box again. Noooo, couldn't be. I figured there must be rodents up in the loft or something nesting under the eaves....
Late this afternoon I was talking about owls with another friend, and I mentioned how mine had failed (again) this year, and hadn't hatched anything at all.
This evening I heard the noises again. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to look. I was afraid I would find either an injured adult, unable to leave the box, or one half-starved baby that had consumed all of its siblings. Or maybe a family of rats. I put on jeans and long sleeves, welding gloves, and a face mask (overkill? Yes... But better safe than sorry!) and climbed the ladder with a mirror and a flashlight.
To my absolute amazement, what I saw was four BIG healthy babies, several weeks old, or more? OMG!!! I was shocked. That means not only did she hatch them, and not kill them, but she's actively feeding them despite me not having seen her for weeks.
Here's a photo of their reflection in the mirror. There is one is in the lower left, mostly blocked by my thumb. There is some sort of dead thing on the right that I can't identify, it may be a fifth (youngest) sibling, that would not be unusual for not all the babies to live. Or it could be a rodent, I'm not sure. At any rate, OMG babies!!! :-)