By Christy Scannell-1:01 p.m., Sept. 23, 2011
signonsandiego online News
RAMONA — In 1992 certified arborist Tom Stephan was giving a woman an estimate on trimming a sycamore tree at her Pauma Valley Country Club home when he noticed a box in the branches.
She was hoping it would attract owls to kill rodents, she said, but it hadn’t worked.
Stephen, a falconer since high school, told her the box was too low and moved it higher.
Three days later, an owl had taken up residence.
Since then, he’s put up 30,000 barn owl boxes in Southern California.
Michael Mace, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo, applauds the owl box phenomenon.
“Barn owls are one of those species that have been able to adapt to human activities,” he said. “As Southern California has built out, if you didn’t have artificial nesting sites like this, these owls would have to move into a habitat not suited for them.
Sue Burkett had Stephan install a box with video feed five years ago at her Rancho Bernardo home, where a pine sheltered it. She was disappointed when two years later an owl still hadn’t taken up residence (Stephan says owls will occupy the boxes anywhere from a day to a few years after installation). Then a heavy rainstorm caused the tree to fall, leaving the box standing on its pole in open air.
Within days an owl had found the box and laid eggs in it.
Stephan no longer makes the boxes himself. Now he contracts with a local craftsman. Instead, he visits each property personally and assesses the best place to install the box, which typically tops a 15-foot pole. While he recommends a minimum half-acre lot for an owl box, he said a “normal backyard” works fine as well.
That's what I like to see, boxes, boxes and more boxes!
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