Thursday, June 19, 2014

Jamaica Bay Barn Owls...

On this Throw Back Thursday, I look back at some of the work that was and still being done by volunteers in Jamaica Bay to help our Barn Owl population.

The Barn Owl (Tyto alba), population continues to do very well at Jamaica Bay thanks to nest boxes, that are installed on many of the remote islands around the bay by volunteers and coordinated by the American Littoral Society with cooperation of NYC Department of  of Environmental Conservation and Gateway National Park Service.  I have been involved in several banding and nest box maintenance whenever I have the time to assist. Did you know that Barn Owl feeds primarily on small vertebrates, particularly rodents? Studies have shown, that an individual Barn Owl may eat one or more rodents per night; a nesting pair and their young can eat more than 1,000 rodents per year. Given its eating habits, who would not love to have Barn Owls in their neighborhood?

BAOW Nest Box
Barn Owl Team back in 2009.
One such nest box at Big John's Pond on the East Pond side of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, offers visitors a unique and close up look at Barn Owls.

We love our Barn Owls at Jamaica Bay, so last year, when word got to me that the the Big John's box was invaded by Racoons, I sprung into action. After several e-mails, prodding and basically nagging to get in and do the repairs (it took awhile), a few of us including (Lloyd Spitalnk and Harry Mass of New York City Audubon) got together to fix the box sans NPS.

This photo taken by Lloyd Spitalnik, (see his excellent photography here) of yours truly shows me in full waders. It was in August and it was sweltering wearing the full waders, but it was necessary to get to the box.  Once there, we did the repairs and I even cleared hanging branches that were near the box to remove all aid for any future attempts at an intrusion.  I should note that the box was occupied, by a Barn Owl (no eggs or young) that flew out before we got there, which was a good sign that the box was being used.  We even left a bit of space in the back to provide more air for the nesting Owls, since it is sure to get hot and stuffy once Owlets and their parents occupy the box.

Owlets - 3 of them observed on Friday 6-13-2014.
I am happy to report that the box continues to produce and we currently have 3 Owlets doing quite well.  Last Friday with a bit of patience, I saw the 3 little ones and 1 adult.  It took me 1 hour and about 45 minutes of wait time to observe and document the occupants of the box, but it was quite pleasing to see the work that I and others put in to repair the nest box was not in vain.

Peek -a-boo with an Adult Barn Owl.
If you have not seen a Barn Owl in the wild, this is a good spot to get a look at one and if you are patient you might even see the Owlets as they peek out.  Just be patient and do not use any methods to entice the Owls out of the box. The wildlife is there for us to enjoy without us being intrusive.

Hello There - Adult Barn Owl.

Adult Barn Owl Investigating.

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