Thursday, January 16, 2014

Squirrels Removed, Owls Return

Screech owl cam’ viewers will be pleased to know that, although there's nothing to view yet, with the removal of the squirrels, the owls are checking out the nest box with increasing frequency. (Yeah, I'll probably graph it, but not at the moment.)

I have to hope that they won't actually begin nesting until March, as has been the case most years, because I still have to integrate a high-definition color/monochrome camera into the box, and into my homegrown owl cam’ software. The quickest way to integrate it into the box may be to build a new box using a much simpler design that I've been thinking about for a few years. The new design would solve a number of shortcomings in the current design that've become apparent over the last thirteen years, and would also add enough new interior space to accommodate the high-def camera, which, regrettably, is much larger than any other camera I've used in the nest box.

All I need in order to pull this off is sensible owls that will wait until March to nest, some monetary blood letting (as opposed to outright hemorrhaging) to complete the new audio/video setup, no nasty surprises from the new camera, a little luck with the software work, and a massive, sustained surge of energy that'll make it possible to accomplish all of that in whatever time I have. It's that last bit about the energy that worries me the most.

Interested parties may, as they see fit, wish me luck, knock on wood, and so forth.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Removing Squirrels from the Owl Box

One unpleasant chore done: I've removed three very nice fox squirrels from the owl box. It always makes me feel like a bully and a scoundrel, but if the owls are going to nest in the box, the squirrels have to go. It's likely they'll be back in about a week, but the process of making the owl box feel like a dangerous place to be a squirrel is underway. In the meantime, when the owls poke their heads in the box, they'll see that it's available and should return to nest in it again this year.

Longtime readers may recall that I thought I'd solved the squirrel-in-the-owl-box problem a few years back when I placed a dedicated squirrel box in the same tree as the owl nest box. The idea being that a squirrel, or family of squirrels, would occupy the squirrel box, and their natural territoriality would cause them to repel any other fox squirrels that wanted to move into their home tree.

That worked for two years. I think the problem this year is that the squirrel family unit living in the squirrel box has been successful enough over these years that it has exceeded the (comfortable) capacity of the squirrel box, causing various family members to seek lodging in the next best place in the tree: the owl box.

That said, the number of squirrels in the owl box on any given night this winter has varied from zero to three. So, they must have at least one other nest site, presumably the squirrel box. I hope the three I had to pick on tonight will simply move back into that box, and write-off the owl box as a promising, but ultimately failed, experiment. Regrettably, I have no cameras in the squirrel box, so I can only speculate about the goings on in there.

Meanwhile, I encountered one of my owls one night ago, so they're around, just as one would expect. I'm also trying to have some significant upgrades in place for this season. As usual, I've left it a bit late (I was hesitant to spend the money), but I haven't yet fully proved that the new gear will behave as desired, so worst case, it'll be a moot point. Best case, I'll soon be in a flat-out race against time to integrate the new stuff. Wish me luck, and remember that the owl cam' has had to relocate to