12/28/2007

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!

8 comments:

Lynne said...

I'm looking forward to watching your owls with you. Maybe you should hold an owl box open house to let them know the box is available!

How wide is that flashing? I got an owl box for Christmas from my husband but would like to keep the squirrels out.

Owlman said...

Thanks for popping in Lynne. The flashing is 20 inches wide. Some people recommend 24 inches but all I could find at Home Dept was 20 inches so I went with that and it seems to be doing the trick.

One tip based on my experience would be to install the bottom flashing a couple of inches below the box, especially if you want to put your ladder below the box. This way you don't have your ladder resting on metal which can cause your ladder to slip. I didn't think about this when I installed the flashing, so I have to be extra careful when climbing the ladder. Luckily I now have the camera which should lessen any trips up the ladder.

As far as general installation goes I would recommend a pulley system to get it up, especially if it is a heavy box. Also try to get two people involved in the hoisting and positioning etc. I screwed two 2x4’s directly onto the tree and then screwed the box onto those. This makes it a little easier to get the box onto the tree as you don’t have to worry about lining the box up with holes in the tree. It also allows water to run off behind the actual box which increases the box’s life span. BTW, you may want to put some flashing onto the roof of the box as this will again increase the lifespan of the box. In addition, if a squirrel manages to pop onto the box they won’t have anything to grip onto. I painted the flashing on my roof brown to make it less visible. A few people have experimented with simply strapping the box to the tree rather than using nails. I prefer something more permanent.

Location is key. You need to get the box about 10 feet off the ground with a clear flight path to the box. Most sites also recommend clearing the area below the box. If you have flashing up, you should put a perch up just before the owlets are ready to leave the box. This gives them a nice training area and should limit any trips to the ground – with the flashing up they won’t be able to get back to the box. This isn’t a major issue as they will still be fed and taken care of by the parents.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’d be happy to share what I’ve read and heard. I wish my advice was based on nesting success but hopefully that will change in the New Year!

Thanks for the advice. I will get my ass of the couch and start working on 'open house' signs ;-) Guess I need to get them up sooner rather than later. Have you thought about an owl cam? It’s gonna burn you up not knowing what’s going on inside the box – trust me! Lotsa luck!

Camera Trap Codger said...

You have inspiring me to try again. I have two screech owl boxes (home made jobs), but failed to use flashing with the result that squirrels enlarged the entrance holes and filled the boxes with grass. I read to move them if you don't get a tenant in 2 years. Before I move the salvagable box I am tempted to use a remote security alarm to hear if anything is using the box these days. It's an infra red sensor which I will put in the owl box and a receiver that beeps inside the house wehn the sensor is activated. Of course I'll have to go check the box to see the visitor.

Owlman said...

Camera Trap Codger, I feel your pain. The last couple of years I have battled the squirrels and evicted them several times. They were even adding winter padding just before I added the flashing - so it is well worth the effort. My box is also home made. I decided to build it rather than buying one, as I liked the challenge of building something unique.

I have also read that you should move it if nothing happens after two years. Pick a spot that has easy access for the owls and that doesn't have a lot of brush below the box. Some sites recommend adding some leaves below the box to add padding in case the owlets fall from the box.

Chris Johnson http://gargravarr.cc.utexas.edu/owl/ recommended that I install a remote security alarm like the one you're thinking of using. I would be interested to see what your results are like - please keep me posted.

BTW, great blog. I look forward to following your adventures. Please blog about the owl boxes when you get a chance. When are you thinking about moving the boxes?

Susan Gets Native said...

I don't really have anything else to add to the box discussion. It seems like you are doing everything right.
It's a good sign finding feathers and pellets. At least they are in the area!
Can't wait to see the videos of wee little owlets!

Hungry Owl Project said...

Regarding your comment about the owl being in the box and then not being in the box...sometimes male screech owls will have multiple roosts...so it may still be in the area. We find this with Barn Owls as well. We have a Barn Owl cam at http://www.hungryowl.org/barnowlcam.html and recently the box was empty for weeks, then all of a sudden two owls appeared, but then they left for a few days and today they are back!

Maggie
Hungry Owl Project
Marin County, CA

Owlman said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement Maggie. I guess I would feel a little better if I'd seen the owl since putting up the camera. I can't imagine that taking a few pictures disturbed the owl enough for it never to return..... I was so excited when I saw it I had to take a couple of pictures! I guess I just need to hang in there until March to see what happens.

I have been thinking about putting a Barn owl box up. Our property backs onto farmland and I have some pretty large pines that I could stick it in. I was going to work on building one this winter but I am a little torn because if a Barn owl moves in the Screech owl will move out. Then again, Barn owls are pretty uncommon in these parts so having one move in would be awesome. What I may end up doing is building one in early spring and putting it up after that. At least that way I have a shot at having a Screech owl for this year. Barn owl nest any time of the year so they could move in once the Screechies are done. I haven’t heard a Barn owl at my house, but I figure if you build it they may come. This county still has a lot of farmland with barns/silos so I can’t imagine that there aren’t a few Barn owls looking for a great nesting box to raise a family.

The only thing I keep thinking about is keeping the *&^%$## squirrels out of a large box like that and also hoisting a massive box into a tree. At that stage I will definitely look into a pulley system!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Hi guys. It's good to see that this thread is still going. Check out my post of yesterday ("Knock, knock") if you want to hear an owl box psychodrama (well, sort of). I've got to hurry and hammer together another box or two before the little guys get serious about the mating game.

Incredible photos shared by the Flickr community group - Owls of North America. Click on the play button to begin the slideshow - ENJOY!