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Little Owl Nest Box: The arrival of two grey squirrels

I understood that little owls would nest quite close to each other, so I made a second box in which I fitted a video camera and a few infra-red LEDs for illumination. My intention was to add live video of the nest compartment to the website if a pair of owls nested in the second box. Unfortunately, I cannot add a camera to the first box as it is always occupied - certainly at times convenient to me! Although the second box is regularly occupied, this is only whilst the young owls are about (it appears to be used as a feeding station) and whilst the female is sitting on her eggs and whilst the owlets are young. During this time, the male is ousted, so lives in the second box. Therefore, I guess the boxes are too close to each other and the little owls have no intention to roost or nest in it.

I wished to use the minimum of illumination in case the infra-red LEDs deterred the owls. (I could see a faint red glow from the infra-red LEDs in total darkness, and I would expect owls' eyes to be much more sensitive than my own.) Tests showed that the illumination within the box was more than adequate; however, as you will see from the photographs shown on this page, both fur and feathers reflect far less infra-red light than does wood. Therefore, if you set up a similar system, use much more infra-red illumination than you need.

One of the parent owls standing (on one leg) on the veranda of the second box. One of the parent owls, probably the male, in the second little owl nestbox.

On 11/12/05, two grey squirrels began raiding our bird feeders and then started using the second little owl nestbox as a "bolt hole". They spent a lot of time grooming each other and sunbathing on the veranda of the box. I was very surprised at the ease with which a squirrel could reach the second box, so I fitted a conical metal guard around the pole of the original little owl nestbox. The guard, made from 0.9mm galvanized sheeting, proved to be worthwhile, as I saw one of the squirrels trying to reach the original (occupied) box on more than one occasion.
A squirrel on a bird feeder. A squirrel in the second little owl nestbox.
The squirrel guard fitted to the pole of the little owl nestbox. Click on the picture of the squirrel feeder, above, to see it being used.

Whilst I have no objections to the squirrels, they made the mistake of taking a lot of bedding into the second box and completely covering the camera. If they had not done this, I reckon that they would have got away with moving in and their antics would have become part of this site. As it was, I fitted a guard to the pole supporting the second box in order to prevent the squirrels from using it. However, after doing this, my conscience pricked me, so I made them a feeder - a simple galvanized metal box with a transparent plastic front, so that the squirrels can see the nuts inside, and a hinged lid. (You can see a squirrel using the feeder by clicking on the picture of the feeder, above.) As a result, birds cannot get to the squirrels' nuts and the squirrels have no longer any need to chew at, and ruin, our bird feeders.

The squirrel feeder was a mistake because, at the end of 2006, we began to hear noises in the loft and I suspected that one of the squirrels had moved in. I found that the loft insulation was in a mess at one side of the loft, but there was no other evidence of damage. Nevertheless, one hears stories of severe gnawing damage so, with the help of a trap from the Trap Man, the squirrel was ousted from the loft. Click here to see some time-lapse images of the squirrel entering the trap. The squirrel caused no damage (apart from making itself somewhere comfortable to sleep using the loft insulation) despite using the loft for about 3 months, so I wish it no harm; however, it will find it a lot more difficult to get back into the loft.

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