|the first box
A Brief History of the Jollyville Screech Owl House
The BeginningIn November 2006, I read an article in the Austin American Statesman about ornithologist Cliff Shackelford. He builds and sells screech owl houses from his Owl Shack website. I had seen screech owls in my neighborhood and was intrigued by the idea of an owl house.
Soon after that I found Chris' Eastern Screech Owl Nest Box Cam' . Chris Johnson has been raising screech owls on the web since the turn of the century. That’s right – since 2000. He keeps amazing records with dates/times of egg laying, hatching, fledging and other owl behavior along with his video. It’s unfortunate that this year he wasn’t able to get his camera up but you can still see all the previous years.
So I decided to build a box. I hung it in a large live oak tree in my front yard, about fifteen feet up, facing south, with a clear flight path for the owls. I was too late for nesting season that spring, but in December 2007 I saw an owl in the doorway. And owls have lived there ever since. The box is not occupied during the hot summer months but an owl moves in each fall as the weather turns cooler and stays until her babies have fledged in late May.
I’ve been very happy to have the house, and enjoy seeing an owl or two hang out in the doorway nearly every evening, but I also wanted to see what goes on inside.
|the first box after a doorway modification, with mother and owlet
A New HouseIn the fall of 2014 I built a new house with video cameras. I got great high definition video cameras from Richard Yost at Birdhouse Spy Cam . I used two cameras to cover the inside of the box. One camera shows the floor area and one shows the upper area – a perch and the doorway. You can see live stream video and video clips on the Jollyville Owl YouTube Channel .
|the new box
Then I added a block and tackle and a good quality rope so I can raise and lower the box as needed. I used a sturdy ¼ inch firm double braid polyester rope that I bought from the Knotty Girls at Columbia Basin Knot Company . That rope is UV resistant and doesn’t stretch – just the qualities I needed.
December 19, 2014, was the day to take down the old house and raise the new one. I hired a pro to do the high work for me because the new strap with the block and tackle was going to hang from a branch about 25 feet up.
|screech owl eggs
We tapped on the box, but she didn’t leave. We carefully lowered the old house. I put on gloves, reached in, picked her up and moved her to the new house. It was truly amazing to hold her. She was so lightweight. I put her in the new box. She stood and flapped her wings a bit, but stayed there. We raised the box.
The box was up. The cameras were in place. I could see Ms. Owl in her box. It was the beginning of a whole new adventure.
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