On Thursday, one of the pair of the squirrels that I evicted last week returned to the screech owl nest box. Both rodents wanted to return, but the sharing arrangement was vigorously disputed and only the victor actually took possession. The return of at least one squirrel was to be expected. In my experience, an evicted fox squirrel's doubts about the safety of the nest box will last a bit less than a week. Only after they've been evicted for three consecutive weeks do they entirely give-up on the nest box.
So, to advance further toward the final eviction of the squirrels, I performed eviction number two late this afternoon. I was going to bring the box down for additional maintenance in any case, so I managed to kill two of the proverbial birds with one stone. It was a good thing I had the opportunity to perform this second bit of maintenance work, because a careful examination of the side camera compartment's infrared illuminators revealed that one had stopped working. I suspected that there would be a problem with those illuminators, because I observed random changes in illumination in the box during the previous nesting season. I assumed it was a loose connection, but one of the LEDs seems to have actually died. The replacement was straightforward, and all illuminators appear to be working at full strength again.
While I had that compartment open, I also took the opportunity to remove an accumulation of dust (from the pine shavings in the nest compartment), to clean the camera lens and the inside surface of the window through which it looks, and to cover the window in the floor of the camera compartment with aluminum foil to prevent light from entering there. That window was included so that I could look up from the ground into the compartment to see the status LED on the audio/video transceiver. Unfortunately, even though it is in complete shadow at all times, at some times of day it let enough ambient light into the camera compartment to create a reflection in the camera window, which was visible on-camera. It took me a heck of a long time to figure-out where that light spot in the images was coming from.
So, the box is more ready than ever for the owls, and, with my television tuned to the "owl channel", as I call it, I sit here this evening awaiting a visit from my big-eyed friends. Here's hoping that the reappearance of the squirrels late this week hasn't put them off.
The male screech owl visited the box beginning at 1:13 AM on Sunday. He called for his mate with great vigor both while sitting in the entryway, and while standing on the floor of the box. I could hear some of her answers, and it sounds as though she landed at the entry hole a few times, but she didn't so much as stick her head inside for a look. After all of his singing, the male may have been disappointed by her reluctance, but there's no doubt that he has a mate, and considers the box his choice for a nest site, so I think it'll all work out in the end.