10/20/2008

Screech owl roosting in my garden

Yesterday I nearly had a Golden Crowned Kinglet land on my head! I was out in the front yard working when I heard a pair of Kinglets in the River Birch. The birds love the Birch and it’s a magnificent but immensely messy tree. I stood still and watched the Kinglets get closer and closer, with each wing beat I kept thinking that if I had my camera I would be taking some amazing shots right now. Well to drive the point home the male Kinglet landed so close to me that I could see the golden crown with my naked eyes. He spent a good 3 minutes just hanging around me and I literally thought he was going to land on my cap.
Eventually I couldn’t stand it anymore and I ran inside to grab my camera. By the time I got back, armed with my Canon the Kinglets had moved much higher into the tree. I did manage to snap a couple of shots - none of them showing much detail.

While I was watching the Kinglet I saw something that looked out of place. You’d think that someone with the pseudonym of Owlman would realize straight away what it was. Well this was not the case. It literally took me a full minute to realize that I was looking at an owl.



As you can tell the Screech was all puffed up and he was pretty high up in the tree sitting right up against a branch. I tracked around the tree to see if I could get a better view, but for the most part this was a futile exercise. Later in the afternoon the owl became more active and I managed to snap some half decent pics, including a wing stretch.






I was amazed that the owl was so close to the house and he/she didn’t seem to be at all worried by the noises including screaming kids, lawnmowers, cars, fire trucks etc. Even when I moved my mower, the owl literally didn’t bat an eyelid. I checked on the owl periodically and it left the roost at about 6:30 last night. I checked the box periodically throughout the evening but no sight of the Screech.

Given that this is a red phase Screech owl I’m hoping that it’s the same owl that was in the box last year. Hopefully the owl will start using the box for roosting and food storage over the next couple of months. Either way, it was fantastic having a Screech owl so close to me for a whole day!

15 comments:

RuthieJ said...

Congratulations on your screech owl! I would be thrilled to have such a visitor to my yard. I hope it soon moves into your newly remodeled owl box too.

Owlman said...

Thanks RuthieJ. Having an owl in my garden is a real dream come true for me. Since childhood I have been fascinated by owls. My dream job would be to study owls and to write books about them… I just need to win the jackpot in the mean time ;-)

Patrick Belardo said...

Phenomenal! I'm really excited for you. I'd die to have an owl in my yard.

A Portland Backyard said...

That is so cool!! Great photos!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Great news. Let's hope it hangs around, or at least puts the box on the top of its list of potential nesting cavities.

Lynne said...

WEEeee!! Congrats on the owl Owlman!!

Nervous Birds said...

A few winters back, we had an ice storm that ripped fifteen or more sizable limbs from a tall pine in my back yard. The tree is fine, but I needed something to put up there to make it more appealing. So, I put up a kestrel / screech owl box up last fall and within a few weeks, I had a Screech Owl spending his (or her) days in the backyard.

They didn't nest, but the winter is fast approaching.

Owlman... build a box! If you build it, they will come.

-Dan

Nervous Birds said...

Oh, I see that you already HAVE a box. In that case, enjoy your new owl!

Marvin said...

Congratulations on your find and photos. I often hear screech owls, but very seldom see them, though a couple of time one has decided to spend a little time sitting on our porch at night.

HANNIBAL said...

YEA!!!!!!!! I'm so glad you found him! Hopefully he will like the home built just for him! What a great day for you!

Owlman said...

WOW, what a cool response thanks for making my week everyone. It's so great to share your excitement with a group of people that REALLY get it. All of us love birds and owls have a special place amongst the feather friends.

camillybug2000@yahoo.com said...

Hi!
I too am in Northern NJ and we've had both Screech Owls and a larger unidentified owl in the yard (left owl pellets behind). We have a screech owl house that was occupied last year (not sure what was going on in it, but it was during spring. We went to hook a camera up in March and low and behold, scared the owl away. Now we are busy evicting the squirrels in the hopes of getting one for the winter. The squirrels are tough and don't leave easily. I'm bummed because I haven't heard the screech owl in weeks. (Found you in the Celery Farm blog, by the way.)
-D

Owlman said...

Hi camillybug2000,

Thanks for popping in, I'm glad to hear that you follow the wonderful Celery farm blog. Have you got a camera hooked up now? I hear your pain, I've also chased an owl out of the box and that was in winter ;-(

Evicting the squirrels is TUFF! I’ve rattled a stick in the box and a squirrel refused to leave-jees! I would recommend adding some flashing around the trunk of the tree to see if that helps to keep them out.

I wouldn't worry too much about not hearing them. I rarely hear my owls although they are clearly around. I've heard them at around midnight a couple of times, but most of the time the TV is on so I probably miss them a lot.

Thanks again for stopping in and please keep me posted on your owl developments. I love hearing other people's successes and advice.

Cave-Woman said...

So very cool!

Can you recommend a good owl nest box?

I want to put one out, but have had difficulty finding one. ( I don't have the equipment to build one.)

With thanks!

Owlman said...

Hi Cave woman welcome to my blog!
Hmm, I haven't really looked into the pre-made boxes so I did a little bit of research. It sounds like you want something that is pretty much ready to install without too much customization. I would look for something with a sloped roof to keep the critters out. Preferably the roof should have somewhat of an overhang, especially in the front. I would also look for a box that already has a predator guard on it – again for safety and then something that looks easy to install. I would also look for a box that is easy to clean, preferably with an opening from the side.

The good news is that I found a box that meets these criteria; the bad news is that the box doesn’t list dimensions… The box that I found is also a little cheaper than the other ones I found, so I would recommend contacting the company and just checking the dimensions. The main thing to check is that the floor is at least 8X8 inches (bigger is fine), the entrance is 3 inches and that the overall height of the box is around 20 inches or so. Here’s a link to their site:
http://www.onlinenaturemall.com/Products5/mol155.html

Once you get the box I would recommend putting a coat or two of exterior clear polyutherane on the outside of the box. This will greatly extend the life of your box.

Remember location is probably more important the actual box design. I’ve seen a zillion photos with Screech owls sitting in a box that looks like it was put together with cardboard and sticky tape. Screech owls aren’t that picky as long as the neighborhood is conducive to nesting. I hope this helps!