April 12, 2010

Caught a mild case of MOD

MOD? Molly Obsessive Disorder! I'm not the only knitter following the lives of Molly, McGee, and their four owlets (Max, Pattison, Austin, and Wesley) and the unhatched egg named Dudley. Broadcast live 24/7, the feathered family hunts, eats, expels owl pellets, sleeps, grows, defends, and learns new things every day. The oldest owlet, Max, is 22 days old. Did you know owlets hatch in the order their eggs were laid? You can tell the owlets apart sometimes from their size, but not when they're in a huggle (hug huddle) or under Molly (increasingly infrequently as the owlets grow larger).

The Royal family in Southern California put this owl box up two years ago hoping to attract owls. It succeeded, and they started sharing the video stream with friends and family who told other people, and so on. So far over 7 million unique people/computers/IP addresses have visited Molly. What started out as one camera and one computer has grown to about 8 cameras, 2 computers, and 5 monitors (that I've heard about; it could be more) on the Royals' kitchen table. The latest night vision (infrared or IR) cameras were set up to try to catch the owlets fledge in a few weeks. The kitchen table is so crammed that Carlos says has to take Donna (who is a knitter, BTW) out to dinner every night!

Carlos has been narrating and answering questions for elementary students across the country, using Skype to connect to the classrooms over the Internet. Most of these events are recorded and available for playback at The Owl Box page. For a retired guy, Carlos has a more-than-full-time job for the duration; he is often up in the middle of the night resetting, chatting, and sometimes talking on the broadcast. He is a hoot in himself.

Volunteers from around the world are moderating the broadcast's chat room so it stays family-friendly. Other volunteers are collecting data, screen shots, and video and blogging much of it. There are cartoons, mugs, tee-shirts, jewelry, and an e-book. Portions of each purchase go toward funding bird habitat, and generous Molly fans can make donations without purchasing.

Oh, and now there's the LOWLcat in this post that I made from one of last night's screen shots. Turns out that it's hard to chat, take screen shots, and knit at the same time. So far, knitting is losing!

Oh, and the viewing schedule? Very flexible, but it's something like this:

Dawn Pacific Time to Dusk: Molly and owlets stay in the owl box, napping, preening, eating, housekeeping, and staying alert for trouble. Molly literally can sleep with one eye open. I've noticed that she often feeds the kids in the 8 AM hour and again around noon. The daytime camera is full color with sound, and you can see a lot, especially when Carlos zooms or pans. During the day, McGee, the male owl, roosts nearby, often in the neighbor's palm tree.

Dusk to Dawn: The owlets continue their daytime routine but stay closer together so they're easier to protect; they form an ever-growing "huggle" that often looks like a scrum as they jostle for position. Molly does go out at night to stretch and eliminate. Recently she's started staying outside longer, often sitting on the perch or roof, and she's been doing some hunting and bringing back food. The big difference is McGee's visits. They're usually less than 30 seconds! He comes in, gives Molly a rodent or rabbit, sometimes gives her a hug-equivalent that involves lots of screeching, and departs. Usually all we see is his legs because the night camera is set lower to the floor than the day cam. Views both inside and outside the owl box are now possible, so we get to see McGee on the box and in flight. His first visit can be anytime after about 7:30, depending on how dark it is, and as the owlets grow he will be making more visits; yesterday I think it was 15!

I'll stop typing now. Maybe my case of MOD is a little more than mild.


Knit for Joy said...

I am so totally addicted to this, too! Did you see that Carlos somehow added a second night vision camera tonight? Now there's PIP with the original night camera angle and another angle from the top looking down at the little family. Pop up theowlbox2 outside camera in another window and you've got just about every angle covered. It's fascinating to see them grow and interact. Don't know what we'll all do when they fledge and the box is empty! Hmm, maybe by then Phoebe the hummingbird will have some viable eggs that no one steals. :)

Anonymous said...


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Here is what I said:
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