Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader
The subject line in an email I received this week read “Wood Duck Box Update…OH MY GOODNESS!”
Jill Kennard emailed me to report that she and her husband Jeff went out to put up predator guards on several Wood Duck boxes they volunteered to build, install, and monitor at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve. While checking the contents of the boxes, they made an exciting discovery…Eastern Screech-owls!
In the photo above, the owl looks dead. It isn’t, but it is trying to act that way. When surprised during the daytime, they freeze up and try to pretend like they are not there, only flying away if they absolutely have to. Also, what looks like poop (or more scientifically scat), is actually a pellet of indigestible fur and bones that the owl coughs up. Yummy! From the looks of it, this owl has used the box for a while as a day-time roost.
Notice that there are fewer pellets in this box. Perhaps this owl only uses this box for a nap once in a while, or has recently started using it. Normally, these little owls roost in a hole in a tree, but will also spend the day sleeping in a very dark, protected spot such as an impenetrable conifer tree.
How can you see these owls yourself? First, I recommend that you install a box for them in your yard. If you are the handy type, you can search for plans to build such a box on-line. If you would rather purchase one, Screech-owl boxes sell for $49 at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Hockessin, DE. Of course, if you are a Delaware Nature Society member, you will get 10% off. As long as you don’t let squirrels take over the box, you might get Screech-owls to roost and peer out occasionally. Also, sometimes the owls set up shop for the summer and raise a family.
Another way to see these owls is to go on a guided program to look for them. Delaware Nature Society is offering two of these soon. On Sunday, January 27th at 4:30 p.m. at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, we are offering a free Bird and Owl walk for Families. Maybe you will see one of the owls in the photos above. Hot chocolate and snacks will be provided too! Call (302) 239-2334 if you are attending.
For adults and teens, register for the Owls and Other Winter Raptors trip, Sunday, February 10th, 8am to 7pm led by Jim White, DNS Associate Director of Land and Biodiversity. This trip meets at Ashland Nature Center, and you travel around to find as many species of owls as you can in a day. On most of these trips you get to see Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, Barred Owl, Barn Owl, and Short-eared Owl. Sometimes if you are lucky, Long-eared and Northern Saw-whet Owls are found. Once in a while, Snowy Owls are found, but there aren’t any in the area so far this winter.
I thank Delaware Nature Society members and volunteers Jill and Jeff Kennard for volunteering to design, build, install, maintain, and monitor Wood Duck boxes, or should we say, Screech-owl boxes, at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve.