Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Nest Boxes Installed for Eastern Screech Owl (Petit-duc maculé)

23 February 2016

     Many of you will have read my earlier posts about SpruceHaven and the marvelous opportunity that has been afforded me to help shape the evolution of a farm into a wildlife preserve.
     A few weeks ago I asked Dave whether he would consider installing a nest box for Eastern Screech Owl Megascops asio. In that enthusiastic fashion of his, a character that defines his very personality, he replied without hesitation, "How about two or three?"
     And so it was that yesterday we installed three houses for this endearing little owl.
     Initially I had ordered the three boxes from Wild Birds Unlimited in Guelph, but they only had one in stock and would require several weeks to obtain the other two. We took the one box they had and Sam, a family friend of the Westfalls, immediately declared that he would make the other two. How fortunate this was because in the opinion of everyone the boxes constructed by him were quite superior to the one we got from the store.
     Our "installation crew" consisted of Sam, John Lichty, Jamie and Sandy, and myself. Sam was clearly the leader, for not only had he constructed superb nest boxes, he came well prepared to handle the installation, with a ladder, a full range of tools, safety equipment, a toboggan to facilitate moving across a snowy field, and know-how. Sam quite rightly stated that any project involves about eighty percent preparation and twenty percent execution. He was superbly prepared.
     Here are Sam and John unloading Sam's car and starting to assemble the gear onto a cart.

     This is a full service nest box service so Sam and John stuffed a combination of wood shavings and dried grass into each box to provide a soft substrate for the eggs we hope will be laid there.

     I had scouted the woodlot ahead of time and had selected trees for the installation of what originally would have been two boxes. Here is one of the boxes made by Sam sitting at the bottom of the first tree, a Sugar Maple Acer saccharum. 

     Every member of our crew seemed up for the task!

     While John was assembling the ladder Sam was checking the compass on his smart phone to ensure that we had the correct orientation.

     The ladder was secured in place.

    And Sam tied himself off to permit safe working while having the range of movement required to position and install the nest box.

     In order to get the nest box in position Sam hammered in a single nail on which to hang the box pending the serious business of attaching it securely and permanently.

      It turned out to be quite a challenge to get this box installed. The term "hardwood" was never more apt than when describing this maple. Bolts broke, bits broke and it was extremely difficult to drill pilot holes. Sam persevered doggedly; no doubt sore wrists and elbows will be the price he paid.

     Finally the box was in place! Hallelujah said we all!

       I mentioned above that I had selected two trees in the woodlot, but on the way over, Jamie wondered whether we should install one box on a tree bordering the swale and this seemed like an excellent idea. Sandy carried the nest box over; this one being the store-bought product.

     The installation process was the same as in the wood lot, but by now it was old hat to Sam. Furthermore, the tree we chose offered far less resistance and installation was finished much more quickly.

     Here is the line of sight from the hill across from the swale where we will be able to observe the comings and goings of the occupants.

     The third box was destined to be erected quite close to the house, since Eastern Screech Owls are known to have no hesitation in occupying suitable dwellings in close proximity to their human friends. 
     John and Sandy are waiting for instructions from Sam!

     This box was installed in record time.

     No doubt because Dave had by now come along to supervise!

     It was a superb combined effort and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dave, Sandy and Jamie for enthusiastically supporting the idea when I first proposed it, to Sam for buying into it and helping out in ways that we could never have foreseen, and to John Lichty, my stalwart brother-in-law, who I call on far too often to help with projects like this, and who never refuses.
     We have three boxes in three different habitats and it is going to be really interesting to see which species inhabit which box. Our wish is for owls in all three but if a woodpecker or a cavity-nesting duck selects one as home we will not be disappointed.


  1. So looking forward to your photos of the Eastern Screech Owl when they move in. A great team effort by all it seems Diane

  2. Hello Paul. Really good and important work. Well done.

  3. Lucky owls! That was quite a project.... thank you for doing it and I'm sure we all look forward to any pictures you may get when the 'tenants' move in.

  4. A great job indeed. And of course it is essential to have a supervisor. As an aside - what is the ideal height for the owl box? From your description of the birds' familiarity of man, the box does ot need to be at great height. Unless of course they might be subject to unwarranted interference?

    The Best of Luck. I look forward to seeing the banding of the owlets soon.

    1. Hi Phil: This species is pretty tolerant of a variety of heights, but in general the nest should not be really close to the ground. We aimed for a fifteen feet above the ground and that is almost exactly what we wound up with. Rest assured I'll report back on the progress in each box.

  5. Beautiful project, David. Nice to see the pictures of the volunteers at work.
    Gr Jan W

  6. Excellent birdboxes up high, I love that.

  7. Hope the Owls like their new condos..............

  8. Busy bees getting everything ready and what a marvellours idea.
    Hope all goes well.

  9. Fantastic !!! The birds will be happy. Regards :)

  10. Bonjour cher ami,

    Je suis éblouie par le beau travail que vous avez réalisé ! C'est fantastique.
    C'est un beau et noble projet. J'espère que tout va bien se passer.
    Merci pour le partage de ce très fascinant billet.

    Gros bisous ♡

  11. Bird nests are a good supporting birdhouses. In our gardens would put a few more bird nest box. Gteetings

  12. Hello, well done! The Screech owls will enjoy their new nest boxes. Have a happy day!

  13. Hello David, My compliments for you hard working man. I hope the nestboxes will soon be occupied by the Owls or other birds.
    Great job.

  14. Well done Guys,always great to give Nature a hand now and then,I'm working on a new Dipper Box,hope to install it soon.

    1. Good luck with your dipper box John. In hadn't even realized they would accept nest boxes.

  15. An excellent job ... well done.

  16. Excelente e importante labor. Por aquí también estamos colocando alguna caja nido para pequeñas rapaces nocturnas. Precioso reportaje David, un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  17. A great project and I thoroughly enjoyed the process through your photos.

  18. A superb effort to help Eastern Screach Owls find new homes, and I hope they will soon be occupied.