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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Knock knock?

My task today was to move the screech owl box. The stimulus was Owlman's recent post at The Owl Box Blog.

My owl box has been in the same place for two years. If two years pass and an owl doesn't stake its claim the owl pundits advise you to move the box to a new location. A squirrel staked its claim the first year and installed a grass nest with an arched roof.

When we passed the box this morning I threw a rock at it...bonk!

"See? No owl! If there was a screech owl inside, it would be looking out and wondering what the hell is going on." The redhead remained silent, which means she accepted the wisdom of my statement or wasn't listening.

After lunch I climbed the ladder, removed the 2 bunji cords, and clasping the box to my chest started to climb down the ladder. Halfway down I paused to pluck a few gray squirrel hairs from the gnawed entrance.

Yes, I pondered, it was a squirrel, and now it's eviction time.

Noticing that the grass nest was gone, I stuck my nose in the hole and sniffed . . . . the box gave off a sweet fetid odor. Now that's disgusting, I thought. This damn squirrel must be deranged to crap in its nest.

I tipped the box toward the sunlight and looked in the hole . . . and . . . GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!

There was a screech owl inside! It was leaning sideways with one half-opened eye and half-raised ear tufts. It looked like Britney Spears on a bad hair day after a weeklong boogie fest. Of course, the smell wasn't squirrel doodoo. It was the unmistakable stench of an owl's sour barf balls.

"Oh my God. This is an emergency!" I had to get that box back in the tree pronto, and for that I needed the redhead's assistance, immediately.

I stuffed my jacket in the hole, and fetched the redhead, who was about to go to our daughter's house.

"This is an emergency." I pleaded. "If the Fish and Wildife Service finds out I molested the owl, I could go to jail!" The redhead joined me.

We got the box back up, and an hour later I set up a camera trap. It was a rough day.

I hope this owl can forgive and forget.


Owlman said...

That is hilarious! Thanks for the post I got a real kick out of it. It sounds like you are ahead of the game having a Screech Owl already in the box. I'm sure the owl will forgive you, based on the fact that you have the best intentions in mind!

To avoid the hassle of fighting with the squirrels remember to put flashing above and below the box/es. I bought mine at Home Depot and it is 20 inches wide. Since putting it up I haven't seen a squirrel in the box nor has any vegetation been added to the box. Of course no owl either ;-)

Squirrels are a common nuisance with owl boxes and evicting them gets old VERY quickly. Actually Jim Wright is fighting that fight at the moment http://njmg.typepad.com/owl/2008/01/squirrel-invasi.html BTW, Jim has the older version of my owl cam.

Looking forward to following your progress with the owls.

PBurns said...


AND a great story.


Anonymous said...

One of the best ones yet and I'm still on the floor!

Owlman said...

Any news on the owl? Have you had any action near the box? Are you putting up more boxes?

My owls are still MIA!