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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Owl box finished

The weather was ideal for hanging owl boxes this week. Visibility in the woods is still good -- the gooseberries are just leafing out, but the poison oak thickets are still dormant. Plus, the air is delicately scented with bay flowers.

Maybe it's a little late to hang owl boxes, but it feels good to have finally finished the project. One has a 2.5" hole (to favor saw whet owls), and the other has a 3" hole (for screechers). The latter can accomodate a camera module.

It was easy enough to cut and assemble the owl boxes. I had all materials on hand. (I'm cheap and used recycled redwood and hardware).

The only expense was the galvanized flashing needed for squirrel proofing. You have to cut and apply the flashing, but that's not a problem when your neighbor's mantra is "The guy who dies with the most tools wins". Richard has a sheet metal break and an pneumatic stapler, and that made the job easier.

Covering sacred redwood with flashing seems like a crime, but it's bearable if it defeats homesteading by 'wathcally sqouyals'.

Of course, the flashing makes your box look as ugly as a hemorrhoid. It glares like a beacon in the afternoon sun. And who knows -- maybe it reflects wave lengths that attract bees looking for prospective hives. So you have to paint the metal (and treat it with vinegar so the paint sticks).

And then there are the finishing touches, like the internal owl ladder or perch (see below), drainage holes, and a layer of clean sawdust or wood shavings.

I settled for a small grove of Douglas firs for the screech owl box and pruned a clear flight path to the box. It's about 25 feet up on the NW side.

The branches make it easy to climb up to the box, but I'm thinking I should take the chain saw and cut them off this weekend. A bear could climb the tree with or without branches, but why make it easy?


Anonymous said...

Beautiful owl box built with much care. I'm betting that you get a occupant. I would like to suggest that you use a climbing harness next time you use those old braches to climb up that tree.
I fell over 30 ft. once while standing on a Doug fir branch that seemed strong enough. The good news is that I survived but the bad news: the fall resulted in a fractured pelvis and wrist. Chris you're getting too old for a fall like that.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Good advice. Beer drinking and tree climbing are my only vices these days, and I don't mix them. I'll have to get safety advice from Reno. I also pruned 30 ' of branches off one side of a redwood when I was 15 -- trying to reach a birds nest. Got no sympathy and caught hell. I was supposed to be cultivating the vegetable garden

Jackie said...

Nice owl box, I like the way you hinge it. I was wondering about that tree climbing with no harness. I zoomed in on your pic to see if there was some sort of webbing around your waist, but it appears you just like to climb trees. Brings to mind that John Muir story of him climbing way up in a fir tree on a windy day and swaying back and forth with the tree.

Owlman said...

If you get a Saw whet nesting I'm coming over to check it out! I'm looking forward to seeing how the flashing on the actual box works out. Did you test this model at all?

Camera Trap Codger said...

Zhakee, Doug firs are great climbing trees when the limbs are thick enough and preferably alive. I know that John Muir story -- it's a good one.

Owlman, you'll be the first to know. This flashing design was more or less based on your blog reference. I had to get the boxes up, even though the experiment is still going on. The saw whet owl box went up in a gray pine last Saturday. I have a feeling that acorn woodpeckers will move in though.

T~Rex Attacks said...

That's a great design. I've been researching to death the owl box: the dimensions, placement, etc. I live on a canyon in Southern CA but on my property I have only one tall Pepper tree, so I'd like to make my attempt at this count. That being said, I have some questions:

First, I read that you shouldn't use saw dust since it's not good for the owlets; wood shavings are best. True or false? Maybe that was just for barn owls...

Secondly, bees...I heard Vaseline works but I have no idea why. Any other methods to prevention and keeping them away? You mentioned painting the flashing...why? What does painting do to keep bees away or is it the vinegar?