Sunday, March 10, 2019

Counting Down


This is not a Western Screech Owl.

As we count down anxiously to DerOwl Hannah's scheduled (ha!) 2019 ETA, which should be around March 18 or 19, it actually looks like we may not have owls this year. We know they're both still in their non-nesting boxes, Boyle one block south and DH one block west - we saw both of them a few nights ago - but they haven't been checking in at the box regularly like they did last year. 


The last time they had a nest box-proximate conversation was January 4. One of them sat in the box calling for 2 1/2 minutes, then left and alit in the nearby trees where both of them hooted back and forth for a few more minutes:


One owl briefly checked in on January 15, and then in early February a flicker moved in. It occupied the box for most of the month, removing pine shavings every day and sleeping in it every night. 


There were no owl check-ins caught on video during those weeks. It's possible they did check in, but the camera missed it, or they may have observed that the flicker was there and stayed away.  The flicker left on Feb 24, and then one of the owls entered the box for the first time in 8-ish weeks on Feb 27. Eight weeks! That's not normal. By then, most of the 1800 thread count pine shavings had been removed, which the owl certainly seemed to notice:



And they haven't been back since.

Last March, they were checking in at the box every night up until the night DH moved in and laid her first egg.


The official word from the Audubon folks is that if a pair has a successful brood in a nest box, they are very likely to reuse it the following year. They've now had success in this box for two years running. Have they not checked in because using this box for nesting is a foregone conclusion and they therefore don't need to have any discussions about it?
Did the flicker scare them away? Is a flicker big/aggressive enough to displace a WSO? There is video evidence, from someone else's nest box cam, suggesting that a WSO can readily fend off a flicker/woodpecker:




Back to our box: the flicker left, yes, but was it too late? Were the owls already put off? Did they decide on another box while the flicker was in this one? I do plan to replace the pine shavings, but since the flicker left, a starling has been in the box, and it too is hell-bent on getting every last lovely pine shaving out-out-out, so I'm waiting until closer to DH's scheduled arrival date to replace them, which will give the starling less time to spit them all out yet again.

I've mentioned before that there have been infrequent sightings of a Great Horned Owl in the neighborhood. It has become frequent. The GHO has been making a very regular appearance, even sitting in the trees right above the nest box here and right above the box that DH sleeps in one block away. That, too, could be a deterrent. There are so many questions at this point, and all we can do is wait and hope.

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