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!"


Elaine Rimbach said...

Oh, this is such a good post! I can see you on that ladder finding the poor little owl squishing itself into the corner, trying to hide. It must have been so scared. Maybe it was so traumatized that the word spread among all the owl populations within several miles of your owl box. Might take a while to get over that. Great picture, anyway, despite the lack of a flash. :)

Owlman said...

I think you're right Elaine, word has got out about my box and it's clumsy owner. Hopefully the owls will forget about my mishap and I'll get a tenant next year.