About a year ago we installed three nest boxes designed for Eastern Screech Owl Megascops asio at SpruceHaven. We realized that we might not be successful in attracting birds the first year and indeed only one box was occupied, and that by Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris.
This year, so far, I am happy to report that two of the three boxes have Eastern Screech Owl occupants. Actually that is not quite true, the box nearest the house had an owl there and Sandy managed to photograph it at the lip of the box, but it appears to have been driven off by starlings. Josh Pickering and I checked the box two days ago and there was no owl but a fairly substantial pile of leaves resembling the scruffy base of a starling's nest. I suspect that a screech owl could drive off one starling but a concerted attack by two or more birds might cause it to leave. We will be vigilant and turf out any starlings that try to usurp this nest. We have already removed the nesting material we found there.
The second nest box is in the woodlot, a little farther removed from the starlings that congregate around the house and the barn, so we have our fingers crossed that the bird now occupying the box will find a mate and breed there.
We checked the third box - again no owl, but a clump of dry leaves which we tossed out.
Josh ever so carefully lifted the door of the occupied nest box very slightly and by positioning his phone at just the right angle was able to get a picture without disturbing the bird.
This little owl is quite common but often difficult to find since it is nocturnal and generally roosts in cavities during the day, out of sight.
Over the past couple of years I have had a reasonable degree of success in finding this species and I am sharing below a few pictures.
The following owl was, I am quite sure, one of a pair and nested in a hollow tree not far from our house.
Eastern Screech Owl is found in two colour morphs in our area, grey and rufous; grey predominates, so it was quite remarkable that both colour variants were seen at this site.
I am confident that we would still have a pair of owls there had not the city in its infinite wisdom decided to remove the tree. It posed no danger to anyone; had it fallen it would have been far from the path, but I was dismayed one day when I walked along the trail to find the tree lying on the ground.
The following grey morph bird was perched on a branch high up in a tree at Clair Lake Park in Waterloo.
I always think that owls and rails are some of the most challenging birds to find so I am really hoping that by making homes available for them our screech owls at SpruceHaven will be with us for many years to come.