Friday, November 18, 2011

Release Cage Updating

It's been a year since Rusty and Iris moved into their home here in Houston, MN. Although they didn't have kids this first breeding season, things are looking good for Year Two. So I decided it was time to get the cameras and infrared illuminators installed in the release training cage.

Alan Stankevitz, our tech guru extrordinaire, came over today to do the deed. Installing cameras might not sound too complicated, but it involves soldering on a microphone jack, mounting the base plate, connecting lots of wires, adjusting the camera angles and focus (the focus is REEEEEEEEALLLLLLYYYYY touchy on these cameras!), and probably some other stuff I'm totally clueless about.

I arrived halfway through the project (I had programs to do with Alice in the morning). My job was mostly to get the laptop setup out there so I could see what the camera saw and holler at Alan to move the adjustments up, down, left, right, zoom in, zoom out, and move the focus more this way or that way. The wireless connection from the house wasn't quite strong enough, so I used a long DSL cable from the hub in the breeding cage and sat outside.

Meanwhile Hein worked with some steel siding to cover up any and all gaps where mice and other critters might be able to sneak in and out of the release cage. But speaking of critters, we've had a little stinker of a red squirrel coming and going as he pleases from Rusty and Iris' cage. He seems to like to come in the morning for a drink from their bath pan. I had no idea how he was getting in and out, but while I was working outside on the laptop I saw it: the little fart had gnawed a hole in the aluminum screen on the outside of the cage! Man, wouldn't that hurt your teeth??

My standard fix for squirrel holes is to put a license plate over the hole. Always works with wood, so I plopped a license plate over this hole too. We'll see what happens when squirrel meets license plate tomorrow.

The extra infrared illuminators still need to be installed, but Hein will do that soon. He'll also put another one in Rusty and Iris' cage and move the other dome illuminator so we can see the nest area better as well as the far perch where they like to copulate. Then I think we're all set for babies!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Looking Good for Breeding!

Rusty and Iris have lived in their aviary in Houston, Minnesota for a year now. They didn't breed the first year most likely because they were still getting settled into their new home and because a wild, unmated female named Scarlett Owl Hara harassed them every day throughout breeding season and even continued into June, August, and September!

But things are looking good for Rusty and Iris to breed this coming season. Firstly, Iris has been joining in with Rusty in his hooting bouts. Rusty is an enthusiastic hooter, hooting many, many times a day. Iris never really said much, which may have been part of the reason Scarlett was so intent on trying to get Rusty for her mate. But now I'm happy to report that Iris often hoots with Rusty, as you see in this video.

Iris is also spending her nights roosting by the nest...another good sign that she's starting to think about nesting. She and Rusty both cache their leftover food in the nest too.

But the most exciting thing for me is that it appears Scarlett has finally found herself a man!! There's a pair of owls that have been hooting about half a mile west of here for a few weeks now. Scarlett has a pretty distintive hoot, and the female of that pair sounds for all the world like Scarlett. And when those owls are hooting, I don't hear Scarlett in the yard. Perhaps this has bolstered Iris' hooting confidence....

At any rate, I'm very hopefully that we'll have nesting this coming season. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nest Cam project will again be hosting Rusty and Iris, but this year on Ustream...commercial free! Keep watching for the new link. But for now you can still watch Rusty and Iris on Ustream at