If You Build It…They Will Come :-)

I think that in 2012, Tom build 2 owl boxes for me and we placed them strategically in our backyard … not too far from our giant mango tree and as far from our house as logistically possible, trying to provide an optimal location for owls or anything else that might want to occupy it.  Twice in the next year and one-half, we had honey bees call it home, which was a thrill in itself, seeing how they are so threatened.  Both times we called a local beekeeper who gladly came by to take down the boxes and harvest the honey and preserve the colony.  Quite interesting to watch, as there’s quite the science behind the entire process.  Felt good about it too.  🙂  Though we had built the boxes to attract owls, we hadn’t had any takers yet.

That all changed in January 2014.  Tom was away on a snowboarding trip and I was bringing the recycles and trash out to the alley behind our house.  As I returned to the deck out back, I sensed I was being watched.  For some strange reason, I took a look at the owl boxes…. nothing in the first one … and I didn’t think anything in the 2nd either.  But for some strange reason, I went in and grabbed the binoculars just to be sure.  Well, to my amazement, as I peered, I saw a set of big eyes looking back at me … OWL eyes.

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I might as well have seen a ghost, as I was SO excited and I checked my judgement to be sure I was seeing, what I was seeing.  You get the picture, right?

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I wasn’t crazy and within 2 days, I noticed that we had 2 owls, eastern screech owls to be exact, each occupying one of the owl boxes.  For the next 4 months, we observed them daily.  The female was a gorgeous red morph, while the male was gray.  Both were pure eye candy to me and I felt like an “owl whisperer” before long.  LOL.   One day, we were curious about their behavior, as the dad seemed to be the only one leaving the box for any extended period of time.  So, we bought a painters pole and attached a HD Contour (like a Go Pro) with a red lens covering a tiny light.  To our surprise, there were 3 tiny owlets inside!  (OK, this is not a great shot, but the best I could do from the video)

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We would find the female taking breaks in the mango tree, more frequently as the trio grew in size.

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One day, we noticed that the owlets were no longer in the box and sure enough, we found 2 of them far up in the tree.  Looking down at us I delighted in knowing that they were now big enough to fledge, at least from the box.  It was our first time seeing each other too!

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Soon they were gone from our tree, but neighbors reported seeing at least 3-4 of the owls in their yards and on their power lines at dusk and early evenings.  Once in June, I actually heard them calling out and I reasoned that they were telling me that they were fine and still around.  🙂

In late December 2014, we began hearing them calling out at night … more and more.  Before long we noticed the female returned and we got excited with the thought that we would have our guests back … and hopefully some babies again.

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We’re all but positive that they mated and the male was spotted with the female for another 4-6 weeks.

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Their behavior was quite predictable, as they would emerge from the box when the sun went down and would stand out on the perch that Tom built for them.  In March, we left for a trip out west for some winter recreation and photography with my daughter and son-in-law.

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When we returned, they were both gone.  It was so sad for us, as we had the highest of hopes for a repeat experience.  It is my hope that they nested somewhere else, hopefully in the near vicinity, and had a successful brood.  I will never forget them and hope to see them again.  It might be hard to understand, but I felt so connected with them, as I do other species of owls … especially the burrowing owls that Im fortunate to be able to follow annually.  Yes, besides bears, owls hold a special place in my heart.  ❤

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Stay tuned for more south Florida sightings!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy

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4 thoughts on “If You Build It…They Will Come :-)

  1. Very cool! I hope they come back. Check the box and you might find out what happened to them. We had a pair of flycatchers that were obviously nesting in one of our boxes. Suddenly they never came back. A check of the box 2 weeks later revealed broken egg shells. I’m not sure what raided the nest but I suspect it was a squirrel.

    • We did check the box and saw no evidence of eggs this year, that’s why we think that they nested somewhere else. We did have a massive honey bee colony in there between the two breeding seasons and we wondered if there might have been some residual something left behind that the owls didn’t like. Probably will take it down and be sure.

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