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Palomar Park Owls | Owl Boxes for Palomar Park Residents


A Resident Palomar Park Owl (as of January 2012)

The above image was taken in January, 2012 of a Western Screech Owl who took up residence in a owl box placed in outer Palomar Park in November, 2011. The owl found the box within a matter of weeks from when the box was placed. Palomar Property Owners will be organizing an 'owl box' party this Fall (2012) to enable all Palomar Park residents interested in having an owl box (sized for the Western Screech Owl) to get box(es) up on their properties by next season. If you are interested in hosting owls on your property, drop an email to palomarnews (at) gmail.com or a note to PPO at 419 Palomar Drive.

For more information on this variety of owl, visit this link for a nice article about Western Screech Owls by the Audubon Society from 2002:

http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/backyard/backyard0201.html

Contact: palomarnews (at) gmail.com or 419 Palomar Drive mailbox to let us know your interest in having owl box(es) for your own Palomar Property.


UPDATE December 2012

We ended up with nearly 50 new owl homes going up around Palomar park. If you are one of the people who put up one or more owl boxes, thank you for participating. The more boxes we have the more places there are for owls to nest and the more owls we have as time goes by. During the wet season is the time when the owls will be shopping for homes, so if we are lucky by Spring we'll see at least a few new residents in the new boxes people have put up. It may take some time for our owl population to develop, but hopefully owls born this coming year will return when they are ready to nest themselves and find one of the unoccupied boxes when they do. If after a couple years a box is still unoccupied, it may be a good idea to move it to a slightly different location.

If anyone sees an owl in their box, please email palomarnews (at) gmail.com or drop a note in the 419 Palomar Drive mailbox. You can also feel free at any time to request a box and one can be prepared. This should be a continuing venture, and the more boxes the better.

How will I know I have an owl in my box? Habits are very regular for the owl in my box - the owl in the photo at the top of the page. This owl has been there for over a year now and pretty much every day of the year is perched as in the photo during the hour or so before sundown. Looking at the box earlier than that, and there is no sign. With this owl as an example, you likely will see similar behavior, so looking at dusk for an owl perched in the main entry hole to the box is the best chance to know if your box is occupied. Because the owls otherwise are inside, don't try to look in the box or disturb them - just check periodically at sundown and if you have an owl you will eventually see it.


UPDATE September 10 2012

The box design is finalized and we'll pick a date for getting together for discussion and assembly shortly. If you have a hammer, please bring it with you. No other tools are required. It will take only a few minutes to put your box together. We'll talk a bit about where to place the boxes and maintenance (or lack thereof) of the boxes.

Residents who have expressed interest will be contacted in the next few weeks.


UPDATE October 22 2012

Tomorrow at the Oct 23 PPO general meeting we'll have a show and tell of the box kits and box design. Oct 27th, Saturday 3PM we'll gather below Kate's house (down the gravel driveway on Palomar Dr just below the USPS mailbox at the lower Y) to assemble kits.


UPDATE January 20 2012

From the January Palomar Park Newsletter:

Owls in Palomar Park & Owl boxes for your Property

I love seeing all the wildlife in Palomar Park. It seems virtually every day I see deer, the usual squirrels, and plenty of hawks looking to make a meal of them and of their other rodent pals. I've heard owls at times, but until this past Fall I had never seen one. Then one day, for the entire day, we had a little owl sitting under our eaves. We figured a derelict outdoor spot light fixture was not exactly an ideal home for our new found friend, and a little research online got us to find some decent designs for owl boxes to suite the size of the owl we had seen (likely a Western Screech Owl). We looked online for owl box designs, and then put together 4 owl boxes and placed them around trying to get a nice variety of spots (places that are sheltered, but overlook some more open areas a the same time). From reading and research, it seemed that it would likely take years before any owls found them at all, so we were floored when within a few weeks of putting up the boxes in early November we found one had already gotten a resident owl! We don't know if it is the same owl we saw the first day, but we figure it might be. His photo from a week or so ago in January is with this article.

Our best estimate from more recent research is that is in fact a Western Screech Owl. The newsletter picture shows the little fellow as he/she likes to spend time during the afternoons looking out of the hole to survey the scenery. These smaller owls are said to be very aggressive hunters and while they snack a lot on insects (such as moths), they'll not shy away from the bigger Norway rats which are active around dawn and dusk when the owls are out hunting. These owls are too small to go after bigger critters like skunks (or domestic pets like dogs and cats). Interestingly, we have heard the call recently of a Great Horned Owl which is much much bigger and lives in completely different nesting sites. Those guys are big enough to hunt animals such as skunks and even the biggest rat is no problem for them.

In hindsight, I believe the boxes I made are a tad larger than ideal for these owls, but at least for one of them it worked out fine. The key seemed to be the 3.5 x 4.5 inch horizontally oriented oval for the 'door' which was recommended by the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. Apparently, for the smaller owls, if the entrance hole is too large it allows the bigger owls to come in and eat them - so it is crucial for the smaller owls like barn and screech owls to make the hole about this size. The oval vs. circular hole size seemed to make sense for this same reason. If anyone is interested in the basic design, I can provide that. However, what I would like to do as a Palomar Property Owners project for Spring or Summer this year is to organize an 'owl box assembly party' (like our name sign painting party - except to put together owl boxes for any residents who would like them).
 

So... Please drop an email note to palomarnews (at) gmail.com or write a note to PPO at 419 Palomar Drive if you have interest in having owl boxes of your own. The plan is that we will collect payments for materials in advance, then get the wood cut for the boxes, and finally one day in Spring or Summer have a get together where everyone can assemble their boxes and have some food and drinks courtesy of PPO. Rather than do the exact boxes I did (each used a 4x4 sheet of exterior grade plywood), I think a better sized box will come from an 8 ft 1x10 or 1x12 board (1 box per board) which will be much much easier for assembly and less expensive. Some quick price checking indicates a good quality cedar board (1x12x8ft) with one rough surface (good for the baby owlets to grasp when they climb out of the box) is about $20. If reclaimed lumber were free of toxins/odors, we might try to use that as the wood source. We'll look into all the options for you!


See photo:


A Resident Palomar Park Owl (as of January 2012)

p.s. In order to keep our Palomar Park owls healthy and happy, please avoid using poisons for rodent control as any owl eating a rodent weakened by poison doesn't know any better and can then become poisoned in turn after eating the poisoned prey animal.
 


UPDATE May 2015

A New Owl Box Resident

Western Screech Owl

We now have a second Western screech owl nesting in one of the new style owl boxes (the style used in the owl box project we did a few years back). The newsletter picture shows the little fellow as he/she likes to spend time during the afternoons looking out of the hole to survey the scenery. This is the same behavior as the owl that has been resident in the larger owl box for several years, but this owl from plumage appears to be a younger and different owl from that original resident of the other box (which is up hill and about 50 or so yards away from this one).

I had the feeling that the first few boxes I made were a tad larger than ideal for these small owls, in spite of the fact that for at least one of them it worked out fine. Part of my concern was the size of the entrance hole which was larger on the first iteration of boxes than on the final design I made the standard. Apparently, for the smaller owls, if the entrance hole is too large it allows the bigger owls to come in and eat them - so it is crucial for the smaller owls like barn and screech owls to make the hole an appropriate size. Given the short time before the first box was filled, I was getting worried that something might be wrong with the ‘improved’ design, so it is nice to finally see one of the new style boxes occupied and be proven wrong.

If anyone has seen an owl in one of their boxes, please let us know at palomarnews@gmail.com and include a photo if possible. The best time to spot them for me has been late afternoon or early evening when there is still quite a bit of light, but it is not yet dark enough for them to take flight and be out for the night.

KEEP POISON USE DOWN: In order to keep our Palomar Park owls healthy and happy, please avoid using poisons for rodent control as any owl eating a rodent weakened by poison doesn't know any better and can then become poisoned in turn after eating the poisoned prey animal.

submitted by Chris Myers

Contact: palomarnews (at) gmail.com or 419 Palomar Drive mailbox to let us know your interest in having owl box(es) for your own Palomar Property.


HAWKS IN PALOMAR PARK

Palomar Park has more than just owls!

From the January Palomar Park Newsletter:

One of the pleasures of living in Palomar Park is the proximity to wildlife of all kinds. Palomar Park and coastal-range California are home to many kinds of raptors. Many of these birds of prey live here year round, and others migrate here during the winter but spend warmer seasons elsewhere.
Most people are familiar with the Red-tailed Hawk, which soars over hilly open terrain as it hunts for rodents of all sizes. Red-tailed Hawks are usually visible throughout the year as you drive along Highway 280. They are large hawks, and although their coloring is quite varied, adults can usually be recognized by their unmistakable reddish brown tails. The call of the Red-tailed Hawk is familiar to most of us, as film makers use their long calling cry in westerns and other outdoor films
A less-recognized, but very common hawk is the Red-shouldered Hawk. I see these more often than Red-tails in Palomar Park itself, since the Red-shoulder prefers riparian woodlands such as our neighborhood. Red-shoulders do soar, but more often they are seen in trees or on telephone poles, since they prefer to hunt from a perch. Even if you have never seen a Red-shoulder, you have certainly heard them – they have a loud, repeating two-note cry that sounds like “kee-ah, kee-ah”. The Red-shouldered Hawk is a beautiful bird, with a bright russet chest and a black and white banded tail. It is smaller than a Red-tail, but larger than a crow.

Other year-round local raptors include the White-tailed Kite, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, and the Cooper’s Hawk. A great online resource to learn more about these Palomar Park residents is atwww.allaboutbirds.org. This website is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and includes recordings of the raptor vocalizations noted abov.

submitted by Kate Fitzgerald