Pictoral ‘Ode’ to “the Giving Tree”

Site 1

On site 1 there was a large dead pitch pine on a point that seemed to recruit birds, especially raptors,herons and egrets, although last year flickers at least attempted to nest in the trunk.  I affectionately referred to it as “the giving tree.” Well here in northeast Massachusetts we are in the mist of another storm, but the last storm blew the decaying tree completely over so it will no longer attract birds…All good things….So here are some photos I have gotten of the variety of birds over the years that have perched on the tree. Merlins especially used the tree, so added a few more pics of them.  It was an amazing tree!

great blue heron

red-tailed hawk
P1020031 (1)
great egret
P1040669 (1)
imm. black-crowned night heron
peregrine falcon
american kestrel
next 3. merlin
coopers hawk
Imm. bald eagle
P1150498 (1)


Spreading the Resistance:the Kestrel Kind

Thrilled to say that an SQR box (circle entrance) has been successfully used and nested in by American Kestrels! They fledged 3 young this year. It all started back in 2013 someone backed out of a box order, I offered up the box to Phil Brown our Essex County Kestrel Trail operator (and of ) he happily found a perfect spot for the box to integrate it into his project and 4 years later….A Kestrel nest! Kestrels are meadow/grassland birds, as such they have been declining in Massachusetts (and new england) so this project and its recent successes are very encouraging! Both of photos courtesy of Phil (used with permission) you can see his full documentation (scroll up or down for different years): Kestrel Success and Banding and Kestrel Project Background.

the SQR box in a tree with banding crew

Early Visitor

Site 3

Well this is a surprize….I haven’t even finished all the reports from last season…But now Site 3 has had an unexpected owl visitor the past 2 days. Mostly screech owls return to hollows(boxes) in October (in the Northeast) as the leaves and temperature start to drop. Previously the earliest owl visitor was August 13 in 2011. So this beats that early visit by 2 weeks!

Anyway, as a wrap up from last year, this site had an owl very consistantly through January, but then the owl ‘stopped coming.’  So this most likely is a new owl trying to claim prime real estate.  Low light picture has a bit of blur from a slow shutter speed/hand shake.   Hopefully better ones to come.


As the Winter Turns

Site 9

Sorry for being negligent on this site, but there has been quite a bit of drama here. So I will try to catch everyone up to this seasons story here. All quotes are from the owner.

Back on November 4th 2016.

Hi Everyone

This owl was regular through november, unfortunately in early Dec. 2016 a bit of a disturbance:

Hi ,
We had a bit of drama here as the camera was hanging down in the box on Monday somehow was knocked off the bracket. I climbed up and tried to use a mirror to see if the owl could be in there but I couldn’t see anything! So I unplugged the camera and I tried to Unscrew the bracket but I could get leverage so I carefully opened the front and then I realized the owl was sleeping in the front corner. I quickly and quietly closed the front and we left until we watched her fly out at night and then put a new bracket up and extended the threads on the screws so it would fall down again. She hasn’t been back since – she does miss 4 or 5 days here and there but I am worried.

It wasn’t until January, that another different owl returned, first seen at during the night visiting via a box camera:

We have a male red owl that came to the box at 2:20 am and stayed! I played the videos of the owl songs I have last night for 20 minutes! Maybe it worked ! It is a brilliant red male and spectacular looking! I was able to get a couple of pictures from outside too but I am no sure of the quality because I didn’t want to take a chance to scare him away

Happy MLK Day


Then on Jan 30th.

Looks like the gray owl is back and maybe they will mate! We were happy just having one red owl in the box! Now there is a lot of activity tonight! Exciting times are here!

But by Feb. 28.

Hi Everyone
Here is the latest update on the owls. It appears that something must have
happened to the red female . The gray male comes every evening and calls for
its mate (or someone new). The gray owl comes every night and scratches up
the nesting material and then calls for about a 1/2 hour. I thought I heard
an owl answer but mostly I hear no response. We are hoping that someone else
will come and join the poor little lonely gray male. Mating season is just
beginning so maybe he can lure another female in the box. He is adorable
and covers himself with shavings.

Which brings us to the current status:

An owl came to the box last night and is in there this morning!  There has been a lot of night time activity in the box with a gray male visiting and calling for hours. We also hear so many owls vocalizing all around our property! I am going to review the SD card as it is full of a visits from last night and will update everyone. We are hoping the sad male found someone new!


Phew, happy to get caught up here–thank you for all the updates, and staying tuned!

Strange ‘Normal’

Site 1 (near by)

Looks like a great horned owl has moved in a least for the day.  Very close to  where the barred owl in the last post had been roosting, and its not the first winter here that both great horned and barred owls have been using these urban woods to spend the winter. I am a bit confused as to why these urban woods are so ‘owly’ but it won’t stop me from enjoying it while it last. (No points for these owls towards the challenge.)


Owl Riches


Site 8

Some places takes years for screech owls to come by, this site however, seem to be ideal for the owls as there frequently seems to be more than one pair vying for the boxes here. From the owner:

The first owl was a red morph –[ perhaps the returning female of last season?
It arrived on October 27th. This red individual returned to our slot box on the 28th The same day I saw another red owl roosting in a tree hollow near by. Since then, the first red owl has visited our boxes 3-4 times a week. While this individual has been a frequent visitor; it hasn’t been the only one. I have seen a grey individual with brownish feathers on its chest and a pale grey individual with less distinct field marks.
To date I can confirm the presence of four individual owls: 2 red and 2 grey. They have been seen in our yard and at two other places within a quarter mile of our house..

PS.The bad news is that at least one squirrel has managed to get into the new box

Seems at least one of the squirrel here after a few years figure out how to navigate into these boxes, hopefully the new box will be difficult enough to prevent a full scale take over…the old box was gnawed (they will gnaw through the vinyl and wood) to the point it was no longer squirrel resistant.


Rules Committee

Over the offseason the owling challenge rules committee determined that an increase in scoring  would add more interest. Thus in a unanimous decision it decided to allow points for owls in previously used hollows; provided the hollows had been inactive owl wise for at least a season.  This decision has already made an impact. As I was able to pick up another point in a known roost. An owl was first seen here back in Dec. 2012, and was seen on and off into the early spring of 2013.  Since then, the hollow seemingly had gone inactive until this past Wednesday when something looked a bit off.  Turns out it was a very well camouflaged screech owl that was taking up part of the entrance.  I am up 2-0.


New Owl and Site Modification

Site 3

Well I cleaned up Site 3 a bit. I replaced the owl box on a purple martin pole with a 4×4″ pole set up. It required 3, eight foot, 4″x4″ pressure treated poles, I dug the first eight footer in a couple feet (trying for at least three feet but the ground got inpeneratable about 2.5 feet down) like a fence post. The other 2 poles I connected together with four 1×4″s to make a 16 foot pole. Finally 2 bolts (top and bottom of post) to attach the 16 foot pole to the dug in ‘fence’ post. The whole set up should make the box easy to maintain and a bit sturdier. Then retro fitted the old circle entrance Squirrel Resistant box to a slot entrance and attached it to the 16 foot pole. Now there is only 1 owlbox at this site with one box camera…
Anyway the first owl of the season visited this new set up today. It’s a new red-phased owl, as last year the gray phased pair that had nested in the past, disappeared and did not nest here. So lets hope this owl sticks around!

new 4″x4″ pole set up with owl looking out

box camera view

The new red phase screech owl