Date: 2/7/18 5:50 pm
From: Lisa Potash <lisapotash6...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] Owl in the Box Update

As I post on this snowy/icy night, Grey screech is perched at the backyard box's entrance hole (all scrunched up like a ball) like she'd rather not have to go out for a night of hunting.....turns out the owl did leave - just 10 minutes later than usual.

Since my last update (1/5/18) Grey has roosted in the yard boxes all 33 days, with majority of the days (23) in the backyard box.

General observations:

Grey Screech has been arriving to the owl box - before "first light," and sunrise. Since Grey came back to the yard this season (Sept)I have not been able to observe her arrival into the box. It's been too dark to see, with no chance of getting pictures like I had with Red Jr. and the pair's interaction at dawn.

Some days Grey Screech is out showing for much of the time. Often it coincides with catching some sunshine. Other days the yard birds are relentless and push Grey back into the box, and some days the yard birds don't fuss. I find it interesting when Grey just ignores them. Screech owls are stealth creatures, and there are days they don't show themselves until 2-5 minutes before evening departure.

In the months since Red Jr's disappearance/demise :( Grey has changed her behavior. I will guess that the owl is in the box "extra early" to reinforce her territory/roost spot in the front and back yard. This is the third winter that Mrs. Grey has been roosting in the yard. When I had only one box standing, it was Red Jr. that got "bumped" out of the yard box by Grey - she took priority.

When her mate/Red Jr was in the yard I was able to observe the pair interacting and got a series of photos of them together upon arrival and entering or changing boxes. The previous 2 winters I had been surprised at how much "one on one" interaction took place that I was able to observe at time they entered the box(s). This leads me to wonder if Mrs Grey is looking for a new mate? I hope so, since she was a bonded pair this time last season. I haven't heard any owl calls (except a pair of GHO's) since December, but that doesn't mean it's not taking place with closed-up windows/house.

One other consideration is the occasional appearance of another Red Screech Owl. In last month's post I reported on this owl we call "Big Red." I've got a bunch of pictures posted on my Flickr' page showing her, and I'm 90% certain it's a female due to size and the fact that this owl doesn't appear to have anything to do with Grey. I've seen Big Red a total of 6 times in the yard. Observed 3x when Grey and Red Jr were paired, and 3x just in November and December 2017. Have not spotted this owl since December, but it will be interesting to see if there is a change when it gets closer to Spring.

While observing 2 departures this month - Grey exited like a bullet. I've watched these little owls exit the box 100's of times, but these 2 times it was so fast i couldn't believe the bird could fly out that quickly. No clue where it flew to, it just seemed to go straight ahead.

A couple of cool things to report:

Backyard owl box status is ok for now, but it might need help in the future.
The backyard box's pole stands 6' since it's attached to a big, white pine tree stump that is 6' tall. I thought it would be a good idea to use the tree stump as a base when we lost the tree to Hurricane Sandy. Now, time has taken a toll with some insect infestation.

But, with the insects we've had visits from (pair?) beautiful Pileated Woodpeckers. In mid-January I noticed that a WP had started work on the lower portion of the giant stump, and on the 24th I was home to see a magnificant male PWP creating a larger oval-shaped hole. Last week I was home to observe a female PWP working around the same area of the tree stump. Both birds were feasting on something good, but at least I got fantastic video/pictures/observation of this species for 20-30 minutes each! Grey was present in the box while the male WP was there- i wonder what the owl was thinking?

*January 20th/dusk/exit time I watched Grey Screech successfully hunt/capture prey upon exiting the backyard owl box. That night I'd decided to take my digiscope to the back porch for a better chance to track the owl on departure. I got lucky, and was suprised when Grey flew out about 10 yards onto the grass! I managed to get a minutes worth of video of her consuming the prey and then fly off. Grey was on the ground about 2 minutes total. The owl was on high alert between feeding on whatever small critter she had caught. I have a 2 part video of this unfolding. At one point the owl jumped backwards and raised up - looking down at the area where it was eating. Cautious, but quick actions.

Below are links to updated pictures and videos.

Good Birding,
Lisa Potash

Part 1 Grey hunting/catching prey out of box

Part 2 Grey with prey/flying off

Grey in the woods

Video - male Pileated WP

video - female Pileated WP

comparison of 3 red screech owls


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