Thursday, August 12, 2010

Creature Comforts

Hein Bloem admiring the nearly completed breeding cage.

Uff's been several weeks since I last posted! I do, however, have an entirely reasonable explanation for not posting: Hein and I got married August 1!!! So yes, I've been a little tiny bit preoccupied. And plus it's been so hot Laurel and Roger can usually only work half days, but they are still working five days a week with few exceptions.

The outside of the cages is essentially finished, so they've been working on the inside. This includes putting up chain-link fence donated by Phillips Fencing, and putting up 1x3 basswood strips on the walls and ceiling. The interior ceiling will be entirely covered with the basswood strips, spaced about an inch apart. Roughly 50% of the walls will also be covered with vertical basswood strips. This allows airflow but gives privacy.

The chain link allows the owls to see out, but keeps them inside the cages. It also prevents talons from poking holes in the shade cloth and screen on the outside of the cages.

Roger also built a feeding platform just to the left of the entrance door. The platform is on the inside of the cage, but has a small door directly to the outside. This way I can put food on the platform without having to disturb the owls by entering the cages.

The coolest thing about the breeding cage is the nest box (pictured above.) It's about a foot deep and has wire screen on the bottom. We'll fill it up with wood shavings and when the owls start thinking about nesting they'll do a LOT of serious digging and scratching in the shavings. (Hence the need for a metal screen on the bottom so they can't go through it, but yet it provides good drainage.)

There is a small door just above the height of the nest on the north wall. And there's a built in ladder on the outside of the cage so I can climb up there to have direct access to the nest from the outside. This will allow for the removal of eggs for weighing, adding orphaned owlets to the brood if ever necessary, removing sick owlets, or anything else that needs to be done at the nest.

Roger and Laurel are now working on the inside of the release training cage. In the meantime I'm figuring out what shrubs or grasses we'll add on the floors of the cages. Photographer and techie friend Alan Stankevitz is working to see what he can suggest or round up for a security camera system for monitoring the owls. Then the only thing left to do is get the owls!