Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Screech Owl Cam' Status

A fox squirrel moved into the screech owl nest box on Monday. If I had to guess, I'd say it was the member of the original pair that was not in the box when I brought it down on Saturday. Having been spared the indignity of the second eviction, the empty box probably seemed to it like a great find. Unfortunately, as much as I like these rodents, being the landlord I can't overlook the fact that it is an owl box. Well, not when we're on the cusp of the local screech owl nesting season, anyway.

Monday night, however, I was short on time, and it was darn cold, so I told myself I'd perform the eviction the next night. But that night came, and it was cold, too, and the house was warm, and I didn't want to pick on that squirrel in any case. Tonight it was even colder, and the house that much warmer, and the squirrel even more in need of a good nest, but I'd resolved to perform the eviction this evening, so out I went.

To make myself feel less like a jerk, I had also resolved to capture the mammal, and let it spend the night in my nice, warm house with all the bird seed and peanuts it could eat, and all the water it could drink. I'd release it in the relative warmth of the coming day, well fed, if not well rested. And so I felt a little better about evicting my small friend on such a cold night.

This would be relatively straightforward, because squirrels usually play dead when I bring down the box and open it up. With a sturdy pair of leather gloves, and a previously borrowed cage at hand, the transfer would be over in seconds, provided that the squirrel more-or-less continued to play dead for a few moments after I scooped it out of the box. This wouldn't be much of a story if it had worked out that way, so you already know that it didn't. Unfortunately, it's still not much of story: I slowly opened the font of the box, and found the squirrel standing up, looking for a way out. Our eyes met, and the rodent leapt through the gap on one side, almost leaping directly into the cage through its open door, but not quite. It sprinted away across the yard, and up the first tree it came to. Perfectly sensible behavior on its part, of course, but unless it has a spare nest around here somewhere (and it might well), it's going to have a miserable night. And I'm going to sit here in my nice, warm house and feel like a complete bastard.

4 comments:

  1. Don't worry, Chris, that squirrel has a nice fur coat which we humans have to kill for. Yes, a nest box with a nice layer of bedding would be more comfortabel, but the interloper will find somewhere else to rest its head - rodents are very resourceful. Still waiting to read about the first sign or sound of an owl.

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  2. heather asks....so I need to take down the box to evict the squirrels? I have gray squirrles and they always kick out the owls. One year I found 3 eggs underneath the nest the squirrels made. Can you describe the 'eviction process' that you use? Is it too late now for owls? (March 17)

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  3. Heather, it isn't necessary to bring down the box to evict squirrels. In my case, that just happens to be easiest. If it's not convenient in your case, just open-up the box while the squirrel(s) are in there and leave it that way until they leave. They'll probably play dead at first, but when they think it's safe, they should leave to go back to one of their quieter nests. Go back after 30 minutes or an hour and close-up the box. You'll probably have to evict the same squirrel twice more at one week intervals before it gets the message. But that works for me. (There's some related material in one of my other blog entries.)

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  4. By the way, Heather, it's not too late to attract owls to your nest box. Screech owls generally begin nesting about a month before they expect spring to begin in their territory. So, if you live in a colder area than I do, your screech owls are working on a later schedule. And even if you don't, you might still attract a local pair that haven't found any other nest site, or you might pick-up a second nesting attempt by a pair whose first nest of the year failed.

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