Saturday, June 30, 2012

Alice Has a Wild Visitor

Alice has had access to her screened in "patio" for a few weeks now.  She's free to be in her room or out in her patio as she chooses, thanks to a pet door we installed in her window.

Most nights she spends indoors, but a few nights she's spent outside.  I've been wondering how long it would take before a wild owl would notice her there, and early this morning we got our answer.

We were lying in bed sleeping at 3:30 AM like normal human beings should be.  Somewhere in my head some hooting registered, so I kind of came to.  I heard hooting on the other side of the house and after a few hoots realized it was loud enough that it had to be an owl visiting Alice!

Delilah the Great Horned Owl by karlaowl

I quickly whispered to Hein that there was an owl visiting Alice, then groped my way through the dark hallway (now minus carpet), down the stairs, through a maze of plastic sheets that are hanging in the kitchen and living room as Hein removes the plaster and lathe wall there, and back to the computers to grab my headphones and recorder.  I didn't want to turn the light on and spook the owl, so it was a bit of a challenge to do this in the dark.

I met Hein just outside the door to Alice's room.  I went in, slipped on my headphones, turned on my recorder, and held it next to Alice's pet door.  The wild owl was so close it must have been perch on the roof just above me.  Alice was hooting too, and she was LOUD.  I had to turn the recording volume way down.
There was no moon out at the time, so I couldn't see where the owl was, even when I heard it fly (they're only silent when they glide, not when they flap.)  Hein went back to the bedroom and fished out the generation 2 night vision.  It wasn't much help because as soon as I switched on the illuminator, the IR light just reflected off the screen and mesh on the walls of Alice's patio.  There wasn't enough starlight to see without the IR light.

Mentally I was trying to figure out which owl this was.  It wasn't Scarlett Owl Hara...I know her hoot well.  I could tell by the rhythm of the hoot that it was a female, but I couldn't tell if it was the new female that lives at the farm next door or if it was maybe Jezebelle, the female who showed up for a few days in August last year.

Once I had enough recordings Hein and I made our way downstairs and out into the porch.  Hein just installed a motion sensor light there which I'm not used to yet, so it popped on.  Oops!  We stepped outside to see if we could see the owl with the night vision and IR illumination, but she flew right away.  I didn't mind spooking her, since I didn't want her to get too huffy with Alice no matter whooo it was.

We went back to bed but the hooting just continued.  Rusty and Iris were all riled up and hooting, so eventually the wild owl flew over to hoot at them.  At 5:00 AM she was still hooting, this time in the trees outside the bedroom window.  There was enough light I could see her in the pine tree without night vision. Victor was hooting too and I was extra careful to listen for Virginia (didn't hear her) since we just rescued a sick Great Horned Owl from the far side of Victor and Virginia's territory.  But I finally drifted off to sleep, so I assume she finally went home.

The next morning I reviewed recordings to figure out which owl this was.  It turned out to be the new female that showed up on the farm next door with a new male in late fall.  They don't come by often, and I haven't picked names for them yet.  Anyone have any suggestions?  I need to give them names since they are going to be regular characters in this soap opera.  She's more talkative than he is, but otherwise I don't know too much about them.  Scarlett Owl Hara is farther to the west than they are.

Let me know your suggestions for names...I need some!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Alice's New Patio

For a few years I've wanted to build an outdoor cage for Alice on top of our one-story porch roof so she could go in and out through the window in her room.  It finally happened this year!!

This has been a major undertaking.  The first thing that needed to happen was the porch needed to be re-roofed.  We had that done first thing this spring.

The next obstacle was the power line that attached to the house right above where we wanted to build the cage.  It would be too close to the cage to meet code, so we had an electrician give us some options.  In the end, we chose to have the power line buried.

But before we could bury the power line, we had to dig up the broken concrete between the garage and the house, since the power line had to go through it.  Hein started in on the project by hand, but our neighbor Dennis Kinstler volunteered to come over and remove it with his skid loader.  He had it done in half an hour!

Then we found out the ground there was really wet and stayed really wet after rain.  So the electrician brought his trenching machine back out and dug a trench across our driveway and we installed a drain tile.  We need to have someone fix up our driveway now, but there's not a gigantic hurry now.

So FINALLY Roger Meyer (architect and main builder of Rusty and Iris' cages) and Hein could get going on Alice's "patio."  They worked while Alice and I were at work so her royal highness wouldn't be disturbed.

 They laid out the baseboards first, then our roofer had to come back to attach them properly to the rubber roof.
 Then they erected the frame.  Here's Roger, hard at work.
 Once the frame was up the black plastic mesh could be put on the inside of the cage.
 Bit by bit it went up.
 Here Hein is putting the window screen on the inside of the ceiling of the cage.
 On the sides the screen went on the outside to keep bugs out and avoid Alice's talons.
 Hein trimming excess black plastic mesh off the roof.  We later realized we needed screen on the top of the roof also, otherwise all the pine needs and cones would fall through the mesh and land on the screen and we couldn't clean it out.  So we took off the plastic mesh, laid down another layer of screen, and put the mesh over top.
 We put down some outdoor carpeting and put in some temporary perches and it was ready for Alice to give it a test run.  Here I am watching Alice explore her patio for the first time.  I'm in the window to her room where she can go in and out.
 Running over to check out the bow perch.
 Nice view!
 Her royal highness seems to approve.