Survey Results: How often do you bird with your partner?

Well the survey is closed and I'd like to thank everyone who cast a vote. I was really interested to see how many people were lucky enough to have their significant other go birding with them. I am fortunate that my wife supports my hobby, although she is not a fanatic like I am. One of my fondest birding memories was 2 weeks spent travelling with my wife (then girlfriend) throughout Zimbabwe literally soaking in all the wildlife that abounds in that country.

Anyway, here are the results of the survey:

How often do you bird with your partner?
Often: 4 (28%)
Once in a while: 3 (21%)
Never: 6 (42%)
I plead the fifth: 1 (7%)

The vote was very close with the person pleading the fifth breaking the deadlock. The partner birders beat out the non-partner birders by a vote of 7 to 6. For all you birders out there spending time admiring our feathered friends with your significant others ENJOY!


I & The Bird #65

Amy Hooper has done and excellent job with the latest edition of I & The Bird. For those of you who haven't checked it out it is an excellent place to check out all the different bird bloggers out on the net today.
Great job Amy!

Owl box update

Well I finally ran the wiring from the basement up to the living room and I have the owl cam fully operational. It is really cool to be able to watch the owl box from the comfort of my living room. Unfortunately I haven't seen any owl activity since I took the photo in November. It seems like the owl had been there for awhile as I have owl pellets and a couple of feathers in the owl box. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the owl hasn't been around lately. Did he find a mate that was using another cavity for roosting? Was he killed by a predator or a car? Did he find a more suitable location? Did I disturb him and he decided to move on?

Based on my experiences with owls they are pretty resilient to human disturbance and I doubt that my very minimal activity around the box made him move on. I would love to hear what your thoughts are.

Based on my research not having owls during the 'off' season is not necessarily a bad thing as owls may only move in during the nesting season. I would love to hear from people who have active nesting boxes to see what their experience has been. In the meantime I just keep watching the owl box to see if I can spot an owl. The great thing is that the flashing seems to be working as I haven't seen any signs of squirrels in the box. At the very least I have some confidence that the flashing will also deter any raccoons from attacking the owlets. I hope you noticed the positive thinking kicking in!

I hope you had a great Christmas and you’re looking forward to the New Year celebration. On a side note PLEASE don’t drink and drive it is NOT worth it. We had a bad wreck on one of our major highways last night and we had to extricate 4 people. Be careful and stay safe!


Ughs the Barn Owl

A friend of mine sent me a pic that was taken of a Barn Owl that was rehabilitated at the school I went to in SA. Treverton has a very strong focus on environmental studies and students had a lot of hands on experience with wild animals. The school is located in the heart of the Natal midlands which is an absolute magnet for birds. We had Barn Owl, Grass Owl, Marsh Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and Wood Owl all located on the farm.
As you can imagine I had a great time growing up in an environment like this. I even had the privilege of rehabilitating a Spotted Eagle Owl. Maybe I will dig up a pic sometime and scan it..

BTW, the Barn Owl was christened Ughs because we thought he was soo ugly. Luckily he grew into a handsome adult. Actually looking at the pics of us as kids I think we had VERY little room to pass judgment on the poor little owl. I won't put you through the horror of looking at my pictures as a goofy kid!

Happy Holidays

Well tis the season to be jolly and I want to wish everyone happy holidays and an exciting and rewarding New Year. I hope that all your dreams come true this year.
One of my VERY optimistic dreams for 2008 is that the Packers win the Super Bowl. Yip, like I said VERY optimistic.

To all the folks out in MN supporting the Packers, let's hope this is our year. To the detractors supporting the Vikings (no names mentioned Lynne - oops) may all your dreams except a playoff win come true.......

Seriously, stay happy and safe and enjoy the time with family and friends!


The birding soundtrack to our life

Is there a song that reminds you about your first kiss or your best summer ever? Do you hear a song on the radio and it takes you to another place? I would say that most of us have that experience on a fairly regular basis.

Can birds create a soundtrack to our lives? Often times when I hear a Blue Jay I have an extrasensory experience that takes me back to my first winter in the States. I can feel the wind on my face; hear the crunch of snow beneath my boots and the bubbling excitement of seeing a beautiful new bird.

I have a similar experience each time I see a Barn Owl and I'm taken back to a defining snippet in time when a Barn Owl circled me twice on a little farm in Rustenburg, South Africa. That was the moment when the birding bug bit me. The Barn Owl will forever have a special place in my memory and on my birding timeline. Do you remember ‘that’ bird that started your obsession with birds? Do remember what you were doing and what it felt like? Does that bird still have that affect on you?

I would love to hear from fellow birders who have similar experiences when they see or hear a bird and it takes them back to a specific moment in time. In a sense, birds become the soundtrack to our life. All I can say is enjoy the music and the memories.

Birding magazines

I need some help! I would like some recommendations on must read birding magazines. I'd like to do more reading about birds in 2008 and your recommendations would be MUCH appreciated. I realize there is probably a myriad of different types of magazines out there and I'll leave it up to you to describe your favorites. Please help!

Owlcam operational

I took advantage of a short break in the weather on Saturday to install the owlcam. Actually the installation is the easy part. The main effort is running the wiring back to the house. Luckily the ground was nice and moeshie so I managed to get the wiring buried underground pretty easily - barring a frozen knee. All the wiring was run into my basement and I now just need to drill the final hole to hook it up to my TV in the living room. I currently have the cables hooked to a DVD player and sadly the box is vacant. Although this is a little worrying I am staying positive that spring will bring me some owls. For all of you out there contemplating installing an owlcam I can highly recommend the Hawkeye. Installation is quick, the camera is hard wired and all you need to do is hook the RCA cables to the TV and plug the power cord in - EZ!
If you shop around you may even be able to get some great deals on the camera.


You might be a birder if......

In my post Admitting you're a birder I mentioned that I had read a great post about signs that you are a birder. RuthieJ gave me the link to Susan gets native's post You might be a birder....

Weather alert: Wintery mix developing in NW NJ. 12:14 am, time to head to bed-lata.


First Shoveler of the season

Well it finally happened! I had to whip out the old snow shovel and push all the slush around my driveway. All I could imagine while doing it was adding some form of alcohol to the slush and whipping up some exotic frozen cocktail with a little umbrella.

I'm soooo often envious of the folks in MN with all the bird life out there, especially owls...but then winter rolls around and I think about all the snow. Don't get me wrong I love snow, but I hate shoveling especially all the ice. I'm hoping for nice fluffy snow this weekend so I can roll out my bad ass snow blower. Mr. Winter bring it on!


Birding survey ticking down

I'm running a survey on my site to see how many people go birding with their significant other (SO) and to date the results are pretty much split down the middle.

12 people have voted:
6 answered that they 'Never bird with their SO
2 answered 'Once in a while'
3 answered 'Often'
1 person took the Fifth (we are investigating the legality of this action....)

Please click away and let me know what your birding household is like.


Admitting you're a birder

I read somewhere a couple of weeks back that birding is now starting to overtake hunting and fishing as popular hobbies. I think part of the reason for this is that birding can be done anywhere as long as you have a view of the outside world. It's funny because for some reason many people I have met don't consider themselves birders, yet they watch backyard birds all the time - they even call me on the phone to help them ID the little brown bird with the cute little white neck (any takers on this ID?)

Being a birder is something that becomes an integral part of your life and it is hard to separate that from other activities. I often find myself bird watching as I pack the groceries in the car after a long and arduous shopping trip. I have also been known to swerve a little off the road (honestly just a tad) as I strain my head forward to get a better look at a red tailed hawk zooming over my car. These are all signs that you are in fact a true birder - just admit it! By the way, I read a great post a little while back that listed all the signs that you may be a birder if... Anyone have the link for me?

Have a good one and enjoy the birding!


Christmas lights vs. Owlcam

As you may be able to guess from the title of this post the owlcam lost out to Christmas decorations this weekend. My owlcam arrived late on Saturday at which stage we were ready to head off to our fire department Christmas party. Sunday I felt less than Olympic when I was woken up by my bubbly 3 year old at 6:30. Yes, 6:30 am! As I was getting (rolling/stumbling/rumbling/grumbling) out of bed I heard that my son was also ready to party with dad...ouch. Sadly the day didn't get any better after that. I spent much of the day sitting on my roof clipping xmas lights onto the gutters. Let's just say this activity should NOT be attempted with a hangover. Another strange thing I learnt about xmas lights is that they are part of the Velcro family. I rolled them up and stuck them all in a bag last year and spent the better part of the day untangling them - good times.

I did play with the owlcam and I was amazed at how small it is. I was expecting a small camera, but I was still surprised by the size (or lack) of it. I managed to get it fired up with the 300 feet of cabling and everything worked correctly. The camera is color, but the colors are way off. This is not a major issue for me as the only reason I like the fact that its color is because I will be able to tell whether it is a red or gray Screechie.

I did make a quick trip up to the box to drill a hole to run the cabling out of the box. Sadly the owl box was totally vacant! This makes me a little apprehensive about my chances of attracting an owl. Am I being silly?

Oh, another fun activity that I was involved with on Sunday was doing the final leaf clean up. I dumped most of the leaves around the owl tree. Many of the successful owl box land lords recommend this as it offers some padding for falling owlets. Jees, I really am going above and beyond the call to attract these owls......


Beaut of a Blue Jay

I was watching a Blue Jay munch on some peanuts while making a cup of coffee and I was taken aback by how colorful the birds was. Blue Jays literally look like someone had too much blue and sprayed the bird with shades all over its body. I often think we overlook the magnificence of birds merely because they are so common. What birds in your area fall into that category?

It is funny because I still remember the time I saw my first Blue Jay. We had just arrived in the States and we were living in a condo complex. It was a snowy day and I needed to take the dog for a walk. When I walked outside I marveled at how quiet it was out. Suddenly the air pierced with a raucous sound and I saw an amazingly colorful blue bird fly across the white snow - bingo my first Blue Jay! It's strange because when you're a birder you use birds to mark moments in time, much like many people do with songs. When you hear a song on the radio it takes you back to a moment in time. Blue Jays take me back to that first winter when I made the long trip across the pond. If you have stories of moments in time marked by a bird I would love to hear them. If not, what birds do you think are overlooked?

Have a great weekend and welcome to an unofficial winter!


Screech owl pictures

For those of you who haven't checked out my blog links and the right, make sure that you check out the Urban Hawks blog. Bruce has some amazing shots of Screech Owls in Central Park - well worth a visit.

BTW, it is snowing very lightly out here today and my bird feeders are packed with birds. I'm hoping to get a visit from a hawk sometime soon...

Tigers in Africa

Americans are always in awe when you mention you're from Africa. Generally the response is something like "Woo, you have all those tigers, lions and elephant running all over the place". Before John Varty and Dave Salmoni got involved with tigers, there were actually no wild roaming tigers in Africa. For those of you who missed the Discovery channel's special (Living with Tigers) on John Varty's project to teach zoo born tigers to hunt in the African bush it is well worth a watch. As can be expected there has been a massive amount of back lash and criticism regarding this unusual project.

What I find more amazing than people's misconception about tigers in Africa is the fact that many people assume that wild animals are everywhere in Africa. In South Africa that is definitely not the case and the closest game reserve with any of the big five was at least 3-4 hours from Johannesburg. What astounded me when I got to America was the amount of wild life that can be found in reasonably built up areas. South Africans visitors are constantly blown away when they see a deer running around our garden. Now add onto that squirrel, ground hog, chipmunks, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, fox, bears and the like and SA visitors are blown away! "You guys have more wildlife in your garden than we do for hundreds of miles" - is a typical response.

Don't get me wrong - there is PLENTY of wildlife in the national and private reserves. If you want an AWESOME birding experience head to South Africa. My point is that us Americans should appreciate all of the wildlife that is around us. Yes, I know the squirrels are annoying when they eat all the bird food, but try to appreciate the beauty that nature has to offer. Seeing a wild lion, leopard or cheetah in Africa is unbelievable but count your blessing for what we have in our gardens over here. I am an hour from NYC and I regularly see Red Fox - come on that is amazing!

Welcome to my garden: Pileated Woodpecker

I have seen a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers, but mostly very briefly and often times they were flying over me. This morning I was out filling my bird bath when I heard a loud tapping. When I listened a little closer I heard that the tapping was extremely loud. I thought to myself this Red Bellied must be having a really bad day. I walked over to the sound and realized that the sound was coming from my neighbors garden. I looked across at the Pine Tree and noticed something BIG tapping on some dead branches. Inching closer I noticed that distinct red head.....wow a Pileated Woodpecker - my heart stopped! I rushed back inside and grabbed my camera. Luckily the pecker was eagerly chipping away at the bark and in fact he didn't even notice when trudging through the dead leaves. Eventually he got bored and took off landing in a tree right next to me (actually this is the same tree that the vulture was roosting in).

With my heart racing and my hands shaking I managed to take a few quick snaps before my new garden arrival took off for good. WOW - what an amazingly spectacular bird. The red head, black body and that distinctive flight pattern. Mr. P welcome to my garden, I hope to see you soon!

Owl box camera: Hawkeye Spycam

I guess in all my excitement I failed to mention the details of the new owl cam. I looked around at bird cams and several resourceful folks have put together their own bird house cams. I looked at the specs on the Barred Owl cam as well as at Chris' Eastern Screech Owl cam. Both of these seemed great, although it required a lot of wiring and TIME. Time is something of a rare luxury with two little monkees in the house, so I wanted something that was easier to put together. I came across some bird cams at birhousespycam.com. The neat thing about these cameras is that they are self contained and in a sense they are just plug and play.

Initially I was looking at the black and white camera (Night owl). When I contacted the folks at birdhousespycam they mentioned that they were coming out with a new camera, the Hawkeye which has a few improvements over the older night owl - it is a color camera during the day and it can be mounted outdoors. Both of these features made me wait until the beginning of December when the new camera was launched. I am hoping that setup will be quick and easy barring the couple of holes that need to be drilled in the house.....ouch! I'll keep you posted on my developments. By the way if you have a camera setup I would LOVE to hear from you.

By the way, Jim Wright at Birds, Bats and Beyond has the Night Owl and he seems to be very happy with it and according to him setup was pretty painless.


Owl spycam

Well I finally bit the bullet and bought a spycam for the owl box. I have been telling myself that I need to wait until I have a successful season. Well my patience has fizzled out and I'll be installing a hawk eye owl cam shortly! Having a bird's eye view inside the box will be an awesome new experience and I will keep you posted on my progress. I'm not sure whether I will be able to install the camera with the box mounted to the tree although I really don't want to take it down. I think I'll give it a shot with the box mounted and see if I can get all the necessary holes drilled, wires run etc.


Blogging about blogging

Ok, so a little knowledge is dangerous. When I created this blog I messed around with the template and tried to get it to look the way I wanted it to. I then managed to forget that I screwed around with the template and for some unknown reason I changed the font color to white before publishing. This doesn't seem to be an issue when you use iGoogle to read the blog or if you view it using IE. If you subscribe using an RSS reader the text doesn't show up -DUH. So now I have to go through and remove the white formatting color by manually removing the color code from the HTML. I have changed several of the posts and I apologize if you are getting repeats through your reader. I would love to reformat all the posts, but I have to go pack the car now. Catch you when I get back!

Vultures roosting

My 3 year old shouted excited when she looked out the kitchen window - "Look daddy a vulture!" I looked out and sure enough there was a Turkey vulture roosting in one of our trees. I looked around and found another one a couple of trees over. Turkey vultures are common in NJ, but this sighting was exciting for two reasons: a) this is the first time I have had a vulture roosting in my garden and b) I may have a little birder developing in the house. As I went out to take some pics a few more Turkey and Black vultures took to flight. To encourage and nurture my little one's love of birds I quickly popped the Vulture on the PC and showed her the pics!


Off to Vermont

Off to Vermont tomorrow until Sunday. I hope to do some birding and skiing, yippeee. My batteries are flat and this will be a well deserved break. Here's to good weather and great birding!

By the way, thanks to all of you who have completed the online poll - so far we have 6 votes so please get clicking. Also thanks to the folks who have completed their online birding profile. It is really interesting to see how diverse all the profiles are.

Take care and be safe. I'll check in when I get back. I am leaving my laptop and work behind me when I load up the wagon tomorrow afternoon. To quote the governator: Asta la vista baby!

Birding tools

The holiday season is upon us and you may be looking for a new tool for you ro another loved one. Here are some of the latest innovative technologies that you can combine with your binoculars, spotting scope, camera and field guide. By the way, I am just providing the info I am not getting any kick backs nor do I personally endorse any of these products.

Software:Bird ID & Tracking
National Geographic Birds Handheld PDA & Software An all-in-one device that you will carry in the field - smaller than a bird book - and have access to everything a bird book would give you and much more. Pictures, songs, and identification helps. You can keep track of what you see in the field and load it onto your PC when you get home. Includes a Palm Tungsten E2+256 MB SD card and the National Geographic software.

Thayer's Birds of North America CD-ROM This is version 3.9 and is the latest version of Thayer's Birds of North America CD-ROM, released July 31, 2007. It was created in collaboration with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

AviSysBird AviSysBird listing software for PCs. You can record your bird sightings easily and very fast. You get beautiful printed pages showing your life lists.

Bird Song CDsLots of different options


Bird feeder camera Capture great bird photos without disturbing your birds or their environment with the NovaBird Backyard Bird Natural Green Camera. Designed specifically for backyard birders, this automatic 3.0 mega pixel digital camera finally enables you to capture those once difficult to obtain, close-up images of your favorite feathered friends.

Bird house camera Record your backyard wildlife in real time either during the day or at night.

Bird ID Identiflyer

Player Identiflyer Player with two cardsListen to each bird song by pushing a button next its picture. A great way to learn birds' songs.

iFlyer BirdSong Wand It's really simple. You press a button and scan a barcode, and iFlyer plays a high-quality digital recording of a bird's song. The "ScanCodes" are printed in a pocket-sized "ScanBook" (54 pages) which includes gorgeous bird illustrations along with mnemonic cues to help you remember the songs.


Internet Exploder V6.11

Forget calling it Internet Explorer. My version of IE is clearly Internet Exploder. I can't get anything done today without it hanging...... I just had to share that with someone! I guess this holiday season I will be spending a significant amount of time reloading my laptop to sort out all the bugs - lucky me!

eBird Google Gadget

Wow, the world of birding is finally hitting the cyberspace in a big way. eBird has just launched a Google Gadget that sends rare bird alert sighting info directly to your iGoogle homepage. Ok, so a few of you just experienced vertigo when I mentioned the words gadget and iGoogle - don't worry adding this new gadget to your homepage is easy and safe!

To find out more info about the eBird Gadget such as:
  • What the heck is it?
  • How does it work?
  • How do I get it?
  • How do I participate?
Simply click on the link below

I was thinking maybe I need to share some of the 'new' birding technology over the next couple of weeks. Do you use anything that I should be aware of to watch birds, attract birds, record birds etc?

Two blog posts that come to mind are both by Patrick at the Hawk Owl Nest. One is on the Wingscapes Bird Cam and the other is audio software that Patrick used to manipulate bird calls.

If you've used the internet, hardware or software to enhance your birding experience let me know. I have downloaded eBird and I am hoping to get tons of info from it.

By the way, eBird also has a Google maps sections that "not only shows you where eBird birding hotspots and your personal locations are found on the map, but it also allows you to select these for data entry directly from the map!"
** Final thought - Has any contributed or used eBird? What has your experience been? How does this tool compare to other listserv/email distribution tools?


Owl Feather?

I found this downy feather right next to my bird bath and it looks remarkably like a down feather from an owl. Could it be from another raptor or bird? I'm not at expert when it comes to bird feather so let me know what you think. BTW, the feather might appear bluish but this is just because of the light setting. I tried taking the picture with a flash but it washed the detail on the feather out. This picture was taken without a flash and as a result the white background appears gray.


Packers 10-1

One of my great passions besides family, work and birds is sport. I am a massive rugby fan - which is genetic for all South African males. By the way the SA national team is called the Springboks or Boks for short.
Since living in the States I have adopted the Green Bay Packers as my team. Honestly I selected the Packers based on the fact that they wear the same colors as the Springboks. I started supporting the Pack in 1999 and since then it has been a pretty tough battle. This year the birds have come to roost and the Pack are doing awesomely well and I want to shout it from the mountain tops.
For those of you who missed the game earlier today, the Pack smacked the Lions at home. I couldn't be happier as our legendary quarterback Brett Favre is having a superb season at the ripe old age of 38 (old for the NFL)! Brett is a real super star that is down to earth and he really represents the best that pro athletes have to offer in terms of role model and the love of the game. Next week the Pack meet Dallas in an epic battle for NFC supremacy. If you want to watch some great football make sure you switch over to the NFL channel next Thursday.


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving and Go Packers!


Help needed: How to map participants

I would like to create a dynamic map with push pins that mark where the people that leave comments on my blog are from. I'd like to find something interactive and fun. I would imagine there must be zillions of applications available but I haven't found a single decent one. Any ideas on where I could go? Google and MSN maps is great for directions or looking at your lawn from 10 miles up, but I need something that will map people's locations with push pins. I could do this manually by screen capturing an MSN map with pushpins but that seems like WAY to much work.

Corn Snake

The other day I got a frantic call from the wife informing me that I had yet another Corn Snake caught in the deer nesting. Typical! I've spent many hours trying to catch a fish in the Raritan Bay without much success.... Maybe I need to take some deer netting out there with me. Anyway I digress. The end result was that I did some major surgery cutting the critter out of the deer netting. I must confess that all those hours of watching ER really paid off. Actually the Corn Snake was extracted with only 2 minor lacerations (ER lingo for cuts). Once freed, my wife took some pictures while I did my Crocodile hunter imitation. Crickkee, what a beauty this little baby was. After the photo session the Corn Snake was safely relocated to the farm behind our house. You're ok mate!

Photo of owl box flashing

Here's a photo of the owl box flashing that I put up last weekend. I sprayed it brown to make it less of an eye sore and it came out pretty nicely. I have also included a photo of the primary reason for the flashing - Raccoons. I have raccoons that have taken up residence in a dead tree next to the owl box.

Last May I was shocked when I heard what sounded like the death screams of a Tasmanian devil coming from the back garden. I rushed over there with adrenaline pumping through my veins. What I saw was amazing. Bailing out of the hollowed out of tree stump like toast from a toaster, were little balls of fur.

At first my brain couldn't process what was happening and then I realized that babies were jumping out of the stump. I guess the baby raccoons couldn't handle the domestic argument that was happening inside their house and decided to bail out. I managed to track one down and snapped a few pics.
Later that night I went out onto my deck and I could hear the whole gang calling for their mommy. I checked the next morning and all three little ones were nowhere to be found so I guess she managed to get them back into the stump safe and sound.

What an amazing place we live in!


Set your clock by the birds

Coming from a place where the seasons meld into one you really appreciate a place like New Jersey. Yip, you heard correct - I actually like the weather we have here in the North East. The thing that I really enjoy is the change in both the physical and birding landscape. A couple of years back I started keeping track of when my Trees Swallows arrive back. The thing that really amazed me was how regular they were. I get MAJOR spring fever and each year it feels like they are arriving back later, when in reality their internal clock stays accurate. In 2003 they arrived on the 25th of March, in 2004 on the 23rd, 2005 the 25th and 2007 the 27th.

I have now started to keep a garden list of the Fall migrants and I am also keeping track of when my mulberry tree drops its leaves. Sound insane? Well it probably is. The weird thing that I noticed with the mulberry tree is that it drops it leaves in a single day.
This year I decided to record that date so I can see how well the mulberry tree does. Maybe I'll be setting my watch according to the mulberry tree soon. Actually that sounds like a wacky name for a movie: Setting your watch by the mulberry tree....



This title will probably draw some interesting traffic to my blog, lol. I managed to get the flashing above and below the owl box this weekend...Insert safety tip here:

Always avoid working on a ladder above 10 feet by yourself!

I managed to get the flashing installd without any help, which in my hindsight might have been a terrible idea. Being up on the ladder drilling above your head...not the easiest thing in the world. I will post a few pictures of the nest box next week.

BTW: We're having our first snow of the season today and my bird feeders are packed!


If you build it they will come

As I mentioned previously I have had the owl box up for nearly three years now. The first two years were a bust although I did find owl pellets underneath the owl box both years. The first year I had the owl box pretty close to the house so after an unsuccessful nesting season I moved it to the back garden. I also decided to move the box so it faced south rather than west as much of the prevailing winds come from the west. The only reason I initially had it facing west, was because that gives an unobstructed flight path for the owls.

After the second unsuccessful attempt I did some more investigation and I corresponded with a couple of folks who have been successful at attracting Screechies. The prevailing wisdom was that clear flight path is more important than the winds. Based on the advice from the experts I moved the box on the new tree back to face west. I also cleared out all the low branches as well as much of the brush below the nest. Additionally, I made some improvements to the actual box.

I added a perch inside the box which allows the owl to sit and look at the world as well as offering some protection to owlets as they can hide below it. I also added a few brackets on the outside for an owlet rail that I will add once the owls are ready to start exercising their wings. The rail is a good idea as it should stop the owls from falling to ground which can be a problem as I will be adding flashing around the nesting tree both above and below the nest. This is necessary because I have resident raccoons that nest in a hollowed out tree stump at the back of my garden.

After making all the improvements (except for the flashing which will be added this weekend), I felt pretty confident that I would at the very least have a Screechie spending the winter in the box. This confidence was further boosted when I heard a Screech owl in my birch tree next to my bedroom window one night. I was literally itching to check the box!

Last week I finally broke down and hopped up the ladder to check the box. When I peeked through the entrance hole all I saw was green leaves and sticks. This means only one thing - SQUIRRELS! I opened the box and I was ready to rip out all the debris when I saw something red squished up at the front of the box. Holy cow it was a red phase Screech owl - I nearly fell of the ladder! I rushed off the ladder and got my camera to make sure I wasn't imagining anything. Unfortunately I only have my SLR so the photo is really close up. Click the thumbnail to view a larger picture. I didn't want to use a flash so the picture is a little dark. I also labeled the picture as one of my non-birding friends couldn't see the owl....

Based on the last few weeks I am very optimistic that 2008 is the year! Hopefully this is the year where I can say "If you build it they will come!"


Are you out there?

Even though this blog is mainly for me to write about things that blow my hair back (not that I have a lot) I would love to hear from you! Blogging is the most fun when people interact with you and I would love to hear from you.

Take a sec and let me know (questions updated Feb'09):
> Where are you now?
> How long have you been birding?
> How often do you go birding?
> What are your favorite birds e.g woodpeckers, hawks, owls etc?
> What's your rarest bird you've seen?
> Where did you see your rare bird?
> What bird would you love to see?
> What's your favorite spot for birding?
> Do you keep a life list?
> How many birds on your list?
> Do you keep a garden list of birds?
> How many birds on your list?
> What's the nicest garden bird you've seen?
> What birds nest in your garden?
> Do you have any owls in your garden or close to home?
> Any more info you'd like to share?

Welcome to my bird blog!

Welcome, sit back relax and enjoy!

I wanted to start this blog by giving a brief description about me and why I wanted to start this blog. I have been blogging for about a year now about business stuff and I think it's about time that I start blogging about one of my main passions - birds. More specifically I am a FANATIC when it comes to owls. I will never forget the first time I saw an owl.
I must have been around 8 years old and I was on a small vacation farm that my family owned just outside Rustenburg, South Africa. Don't worry unless you're from that area you would never have heard of the town before. Anyway, I was walking outside at dusk and a Barn owl circled me. I was just standing there and this amazingly silent bird flew right over me twice while I was literally looking into its eyes. People often say that once the birding bug bites you you're hooked and that was definitely the case for me. Since that time I have pursued owls and I have been fortunate enough to see a host of them including in SA: Barn, Grass,Scops, Pearl Spotted, Barred, Wood, Marsh, Cape Eagle & Spotted Eagle; USA: Eastern Screech,Saw Whet, Great Horned, Long Eared, Short Eared and Barred. I was also fortunate enough to rehabilitate a Spotted Eagle owl while I was in boarding school at Treverton (Natal Midlands, South Africa).

I grew up in South Africa and relocated to
America in 1999. I am now based in northwest New Jersey right on the Pennsylvania border.

Ok, so why write a blog? Well I love reading about birds and I am hoping that some people may find my blog fun to read. The other reason is that I have a Screech Owl box in my garden and I am hoping that this blog will be a case of if you build it they will come. This blog is called the owlbox and I am hoping that this year is the big one for my owl box! This will be the 3rd year that my owl box is up and I am hoping that this is the year when a nesting pair moves in. This hope is a little more than hope as I have seen more owl activity this year than in the past. I have also made some improvements and adjustments this year that I think may well pay off.

So that's the intro - buckle your seats here we go!