Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Rusty and Iris have been here nearly a month. They haven't gotten themselves all settled yet, as owls are slow to adapt to change. Iris took up the habit of flying around and hanging on the coated chain link fencing, and Rusty would occasionally follow suit. I thought they might settle in and get over it, but they didn't, so it was time to figure out a solution.
So the question was...how do you get inside an owl's head to figure out what it's thinking? Kind of a difficult thing to try to do, but since I've lived with a Great Horned Owl for 12 years, I have a bit of an idea. They were obviously stressed and not settled yet, and the chain link provided an easy opportunity to vent that frustration.
There were two main spots the owls hung on the wire: the east end of the cage above the bath pan, and the west end of the cage near the nest. They always hung on the highest part of the wire. Two possibilities came to mind:
1. Cover the upper four feet of the outside of the cages where there was chain link with a double layer of shade cloth so they couldn't see out. They still could hang on the chain link and it would seriously cut down on their view, so this wasn't my favorite choice
2. Put perches across the places they hung on the wire most so they physically COULDN'T hang on the wire in those places. This is the route we chose.
I called up Roger Meyer, the man who designed and built the cages. He came over, I showed him what I wanted, he took some measurements, he went home and found some branches that would do the trick. He pre-drilled them and put screws in so they could be hung in a jiffy.
Roger came over this morning to hang the perches. First we opened the door between the two cages and kind of shooed Rusty and Iris into the other cage so they wouldn't be so stressed with all the commotion in the cage. It took a bit of doing, but Iris went first and with much coaxing Rusty finally followed...after the guys started working!
First Hein and Roger set up ladders on the west side of the cage and put up a perch just to the left of the nest. The perch crossed right through the middle of the 4' tall by 2' wide wood frame segments, effectively blocking a Great Horned Owl from being able to hang on the wire there. But the perch was close to the wire so the owls couldn't hit it hard and couldn't jump at the wire from the perch.
Next they did the perch near the bath pan. Same deal...across the middle of the 4'x2' sections, 10 feet off the ground. Didn't take long at all.
In the meantime I cleaned up pellets, washed out the bathpan, and refilled it after the guys had their equipment out. Then I shooed Rusty and Iris back into their breeding cage. Again Iris went without much trouble, but Rusty was slow to go. Then I shut the door between the cages.
They were understandably nervous about all the morning's commotion. They flew around but guess what? They mostly just landed on the new perches! Awesome!!
We realized, however, that although the perch above the bath pan can be seen on camera, the perch by the nest is too high to be seen on camera. So guess where they spent the day? On the perch where we couldn't see them.
The infrared illuminator gives enough glare that you can't really see the perch above the bath pan at night, so we have to do some thinking there. And I think I'll mess with the other camera angle, but again we'll be facing glare from the infrared illumator. So perhaps we'll move the illuminator. More to think about!