Six years after putting the thing up, an Eastern Screech Owl has finally moved into a box that I had installed near Stoney Lake. It was on November 14th 2014 when I looked out my friend`s cottage window and saw the little owl’s puckered face staring back at me. Screech Owls do not only use nest boxes for nesting, and indeed it is quite common, (and especially in November and December), for these little beasts to also use the boxes as roosting sites. Typically, (though not exclusively), they will begin to appear at the entrance during cold, sunny, and relatively still mornings in late fall and early winter. Those that have moved in by winter, will often be seen perched at the entrance of a box or tree cavity roost off and on during the months that follow. During the colder days, the owls like to roost while facing the sun, which at that time of year, is generally low in sky throughout the day, and thus, shines upon more of their body surface and warms them. This aids them in retaining body heat, and enhances energy conservation through a passive solar process. When placing an owl box out, you will certainly increase your chances of an owl moving in if you face the entrance of your box towards the south, or south/east.
If you have an owl using a nest box at this time of year, it certainly shows that the owl is making some use of your creation, and that will indicate that it may also use the same site in the coming spring as a nesting place. If this is to be the case, (and most often by sometime in February/March), you may notice “two faces” one morning, peering back at you from the entrance hole. It is very important then, to keep your distance, (including reducing a lot of eye contact), with the birds. This is because that if two owls are roosting together here, it is without doubt, a bonded pair, and your box has a great chance of being used by them for nesting in the coming months. Any disturbance now however, may cause them to abandon the box altogether, and move to an alternate site for nesting. I would enjoy reading posts from others who have screech owls using their boxes for roosting and/or nesting, if anyone else cares to write about it.
At 8:30am on November 25th 2014, (and after a night of extremely gusty wind), I walked out onto the porch just in time to see an adult Golden Eagle overhead heading east towards Belmont Lake. The bird was low, (about 100mtrs up), and although it was still quite windy at the time, the eagle maintained its direction of flight in the stiff southerly wind, by sharp sideways tilts (to the left, and then to the right) of its tail. You could almost guess at which times it was being hit by stronger gusts, based on the sudden tilting of the tail, one way, and then back again. All the while, (and I suppose to reduce unwanted lift), the wingtips were somewhat closed and tapered, giving them a slight “pointed” look. It was easy to see that this older bird had no issue with going where it wanted, (despite what plans the extreme wind may have had for it), and was truly a master of the sky. I may have to go back to wearing my camera as if it were an article of clothing like I used to years ago – I am just missing too many opportunities, not having it handy all of the time.
Eastern Screech Owl at nesting box – Nov. 2014 – Tim Dyson
Golden Eagle photographed at Petroglyph Provincial Park (Tim Dyson)