With current supply outstripping demand, the real estate market for owls has been slow. Our deluxe condos, with all their custom amenities, won't sit empty forever. With the slow rollout, though, a few unsavory types have decided to try their luck with squatting. Meet some of our new neighbors: wasps, hornets, and bees!!!
Last winter, after the first hard freeze, I pulled a wasp nest out of an owl box in Orange County. The nest was roughly the size and shape of a human brain, so I thought it might make an interesting conversation piece. Little did I know that this particular nest was on the small size. The wasp hotel above, recently found by a volunteer in Durham County, is two or three times as big!
Wasps, bees, and hornets are to be expected. The combination of a comfortable nest box, plus a favorable climate, is almost too much for our waspy friends to pass up. Every summer, we should expect buzzing in at least a handful of boxes. Most bees and wasps, thankfully, will have died or moved on before our more favored clients arrive.
Our best potential residents are juvenile Barn Owls, which begin to disperse in September and October. Many of the birds in the mid-Atlantic states move southward. This fall, during dispersal, we had our first confirmed sighting of a Barn Owl hunting near one of our boxes in Chatham County!! Unfortunately, the bird was only seen once, and has yet to be relocated.
It may take a while for Barn Owls to realize that these beautiful homes are for the taking. Birds like to fully inspect roosting sites, long before they begin raising a family. Wintering Barn Owls may have several roost sites, too, and may return to a nest box after weeks at another location. Our dedicated team of Barn Owl Guardians will be checking for any activity in the coming months.
With monitoring in mind, New Hope Audubon Society, along with the Army Corps of Engineers and Spy on a Bird, has installed a webcam in one of our owl boxes. This webcam, which was built for a box at the B. Everett Jordan Dam, will allow live viewing via the internet during daylight hours. Anybody with a computer can access the link at http://188.8.131.52:
8150 Once on the site, simply click Enter. . .no password is necessary.
Breeding season begins in a couple of months. If any of our nest boxes is being utilized as a roost, it's only a matter of time before a pair of owls tries to nest in it. We may be a year or two away from a confirmed nesting. But if we keep these valuable boxes free from wasps and other flying insects, we may have owl inhabitants sooner than later. Keep your fingers crossed.