My ability to sleep and my sleep patterns are in ruins, my local medical community notwithstanding. As an example, I just got back from 16 hours at the office. Why a sleep-deprived person can even do that, I don’t know. But for some reason I did, and there went my opportunity to keep an eye on owl TV last night in hopes of seeing a visitor.
Nonetheless, I tuned in as soon as I got home. The nest box was empty, as expected. But it had changed a little, too. It acquired, at some point in all those hours, a depression in the middle of the floor’s bedding material (AKA the pine shavings sold for lining guinea pig cages). That’s exactly the sort of depression I’d expect an interested female screech owl to make on the floor of a favored would-be nest site. (And making such a depression, by shoving around the debris on the floor of a nest cavity, is as close to nest building as screech owls ever come.)
Of course, it might have been made by some squirrel that spent the night. But given half a chance, a squirrel will bring in nest building materials, especially, if they can be found, leaf-covered twigs. In time, they’ll build quite a substantial nest that covers them completely as they sleep. But there’s not a twig or leaf in sight.
It might even have been made this morning by a very early rising, very busy starling.
But my money is on a lady owl with eggs on the way.
During all of my work to clean and repair the nest box yesterday night, the owls will undoubtably have visited the area (it’s their territory after all - they make the rounds of it repeatedly each night) and they’ll have observed some of my activities. What they thought of the situation at the time, I couldn’t say, but I’m confident that it set that little flag in their heads that says: next chance we get, we’ll have to check-out that box and see what’s happened to it. I’d guess they did that last night, and liked what they saw.
There’s no guarantee of success in this, but there is now some room for cautious optimism – about as much as’ll fit in a little bowl shaped depression around an inch and a half deep and seven inches across.