Month: September 2012

Starting the Season Off

Site 8

Go This recently from the owner of Site 8

YIPPPEEEE! FIRST SCREECH OWL of the Seaon!!! I cannot confirm it, but it resembles the “White-Faced” owl that arrived in early Oct. 2011. This recent arrival seems paler and has a definate brown tinge to the feathers on its head. My 200mm lens is broken, so I’m not likely to get a decent picture this year…..Owl present in slot box for 2nd day in a row!

my notes: Bummers on the lens, but thank for the update, hopefully we can get some documentation anyway! Thanks.

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Great Horned Attack on Mom Great Blue Heron

One of the cool things about these wildlife cams is that we get so see things that one would normally never see. Great Horned Owls will often nest among Heron rookeries, and it is known that Great Horned Owls will prey upon Great Blue Herons so lots of people wondered how they get along? AT least in this case, not so well.

Cornell set up a cam earlier in the spring of 2012 to watch a great blue heron nest, little did the know what they would document! There are 2 attacks in this one video, plus another attack (you can search youtube for it) a day or 2 later. I don’t think this owl is nesting among the herons? But very intense and interesting to say the least! It is interesting to note that the owl attacks the head/neck area in both instances, yet the GBH switched sides.

Barred Owl Site 2

Barred Site 2

Was able to set up a second barred owl site over the weekend, it is in Eastern Connecticut. If there was a check list for barred owl box placement, this site seemed to have most if not all the checks in the right places…
1) clear flight path
2) right habitat
3) known barred owl near by.
4) space between box and nearest yard activity

So this should be a good test to barred owl acceptance with this style, let call it predator resistant, box. I am still figuring out the dimensions, this version is a bit larger area wise than the first site, giving it a 16″ x 16″ floor. This way I didn’t have to ‘rip’ any wood in half. I could use the 10″ wide couple with 8″ wide boards to make the sides, so the front and back could be two 8″ wide boards (although with this box I turned the boards 90 degrees on the front). It has ~7.5″ x 16″ slot but the entrance used some scrap wood that was quite uneven, I figured the owls wouldn’t mind if it was uneven. It is a large, heavy box, but I guess there is no way around that with barred owls. Again the pulley system, plus an extra set of hands made it a relatively easy installation.

Here is a shot of a barred owl with a phone cam, one of a few times they saw one in the yard this summer, nice that there is some scale with the person in the foreground.

a few shots of the installation and location

pulley close up

finished

Yearly Maintenance

I’ll start with the tools of the trade… gloves, mask fairly self explanatory, after all these are predators there are remnants of their prey in the boxes if the box was just used as a roost. Putty knife is helpful for removing the bedding from a box (especially if it was used as a nest), after it dries out its a bit like dusty horsehair dusty plaster . A Drill or screwdriver to open up the box and for backing off mounting screws (more later in post on this). Hammer is to tap in any staples that hold the vinyl covering if any loosen up in the normal expansion/contraction in the various weather conditions. Finally a bucket of new bedding material to replace the old.
I typically will clean out nest material every year, but if the box was used only as a roost, may only clean out old pellets an some feathers, add a little new material, even skip a year. If it was unused its not a bad idea to open up a box and check just to see whats going on. Birds like starling will clean out wood chips. So you may have to add bedding/wood chips even if no owls were seen. And who knows, there is an off chance that some unexpected evidence of owl use (pellets/feathers) remain even if no owl was ever seen.

WARNING, sometimes Wasps (or bees) will make a hive in an owl box, I removed one from the “pole” box from Site 3. These were European Paper Wasps, They actually began using the box last year, but didn’t seem to deter the owl as seen in this post so if you look closely at the picture you can see a wasp in the upper right corner of the box, just under the roof. Unlike the last two years the female has not used this box in the late summer. Did the wasp nest get too big and deter the female? Anyway the box is cleaned out, Wasps were removed, and I didn’t even get stung.
Note there was another section to this part about 1/2 the size so it was fairly large.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier an important part of yearly maintenance, is backing the screws out of the tree. Trees grow thicker, and this will pull the screws though the wood if they aren’t given some ‘slack’. Takes a bit of trial and error to loosen the screws up a bit, without having the box be loose. Which is why I bring the cordless drill, it is a bit tough to back these out with a hand screwdriver.

Acrobatic Leucistic Hawk

Site 2

Just a lucky shot, my kids called me outside and told me hawks were battling, the white one was top of a large spruce, so I took aim as I pressed the button the other red tailed hawk appeared ‘out of nowhere’ and buzzed the white hawk. Really didn’t know what just happened until I looked at the pic, as I never actually saw the hawk do the summersault. However, the distance involved was ~ 450 feet (140 meters) so too far to get a good quality photo. So incase it is not clear, the head is facing us, with the talons in the air and tail off up and to the left. Just an interesting frozen moment in time.
This ‘white’ red tailed hawk has been around since March 2011, But this is the first of my sightings from here since early spring 2012. Nice to see it around still.

Retrofitting Normal Owl Boxes to Keep Squirrels Out

Found this great instructional homemade video on a nice idea for box mounting and maintenance. He uses it for Kestrels, but would be just fine for normal Sceech owl Boxes. place anywhere where squirrels can’t jump to the top, but not too far in the open. (unlike kestrels which like wide open areas/placement)

also this blog post, also on kestrels uses a doubled 4×4″s so the top post can pivot on the post that is buried in the ground. (see shadow for visual on second pic)
http://pvcblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/cleaning-out-bird-houses.html