Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why I'm optimistic that Carlos will install a perch for the babies to fledge to...

Clearly, there is NOTHING for the owlets to jump to. There needs to be a substantial branch within 3 feet of the door of the perch, at the same HEIGHT of the door of the box. This is not the case, yet. Yes, I'm concerned, but I do think Carlos is honestly trying to learn, and that he is becoming educated as he goes along.

It's not Carlos' fault that the box is not installed correctly. He hired a "professional" who should have had the sense to put the box 1) in a tree or at least within the shade of a tree, and 2) in a position such that there are multiple branches parallel to the box's door, for the owls to fly to.

Since Carlos intends to install boxes all over the county in parks and nature areas, he is very interested in learning the right ways to do these things. He just hasn't had the right people involved with putting the box up.

There are people who go into business doing owl boxes as a method of rodent control, who don't know what they're doing, or don't care. I know nothing about the details of how this box got where it got, other than that he did hire a local professional.

But since then, he's been seeking to learn more, so I am very optimistic that he will install some kind of branch, about 3 feet in front of the door, at the same height as the door, very soon. The babies won't fledge until May 14 at the earliest (now watch, I'll be "wrong" and people will say I don't know what I'm doing. haha. Ok so I'll say that in most cases, that would be the target date, but that these guys might fledge early. How's that? lol).

He did say he's been going to parks and looking at other situations. He could go to any raptor center and see the way they put in these perches.

Here's how: They put up a long 2x4 for the owls to land on, wrapped with astroturf (the 2x4, not the owls). They secure the astroturf so it doesn't slide around. This gives the owls a way to grip onto the perch.

He'd have to construct something to hold the perch up and brace it, but I'm sure there are lots of people who know how to do this kind of thing.

He could make a call to skyhunters and ask them to consult, for example. Skyhunters is involved with building flight cages for eagles, even, and with putting caps on live electrical wires all over San Diego, to prevent birds from being electrocuted. I'm sure they could refer him to the right people who'd be very happy to build a proper fledging setup around his box - without even disturbing the owls.

Carlos is good at learning new businesses and skills - if you've looked at his other webpages, he's got amazing photography of butterflies, flowers, cityscapes like towns in England and all over America, he's learned the real estate investment business and has written a book about how to become a millioinaire through real estate, he's a landlord of god knows how many properties, he was in the navy - in other words he's a very well rounded guy who has learned a huge variety of skills, so he can easily learn about owl habitats.

And a proper barn owl habitat includes somewhere to fledge!

This is why I'm optimistic.

We can see from the picture that, right now, there is no adequate place to fly to. The box stands alone far above any trees, and even the trees that are there do not have adequate perching areas.

He will figure all this out. If anyone can figure it out, he can! Everyone has to go through a learning curve in every new area of life. It's normal, and it keeps a person young to keep learning new things. I don't criticize people for not automatically knowing about every possible subject on this earth - it's not possible to do so.

I applaud those who undertake new projects and are open to learning, and who open themselves up to experts and ask questions, who are willing to continue to learn and adapt and grow.

This is one of those situations, and I think Carlos is very serious about learning everything he can about this. So....he will install proper perches, I'm sure, in time for the babies to fledge.

I'm sure he does not want this very public journey to end in disaster, especially with so many schoolchildren inovlved.

I remember a case in which schoolchildren were very involved in watching the rehabilitation of a baby seal who had been found starving on the beach. He was nursed back to health and the kids followed his progress every step of the way.

Finally the big day came for the release of the seal. Some classes actually went out to watch, while others were able to see the action on some kind of closed circuit TV setup. The seal was released with great fanfare. Less than a minute later, a killer whale rose up and ate the seal. What a disaster! Horrors! Those poor kids!

I'm sure Carlos is not going to let something like that happen. He cares about this little owl family just like we all do. One can't help but fall in love with these little characters, and with the beautiful Molly and McGee!


PS: I'm not writing this so that people will become frantic! I'm writing this because I think that, even though the box is not properly installed at the moment, I think it will be remedied well in time for the fledging. So, please refrain from hysteria. I personally doubt that people are that hysterical, but I keep being told that they are and that I should only say happy happy things. I think this IS a happy thing - these owls have so many people who care about their welfare that they can't help but be well accomodated and cared for! So be happy. NOW!...SMILE! or else! ;-)


Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tinkerbell613 said...

Hey Stacey-
Are you ever going to come to the North East? I have 2 barn owls at my nature center who would LOVE to meet you...

Anonymous said...

You are so good at this Stacey. It's been driving me nuts that people keep telling you to post only happy thoughts. Unfortunately, the real world is not always happy and sometimes people have to accept reality. Burying heads in the sand isn't going to keep the owls safe. Knowledge will help keep the owls safe.

cissycz said...

Hi Stacey, I love reading your blog. I too have wondered about the placement of the owlbox. Besides the lack of perches for fledging, being in the sun with no shade at all, the owls get very hot even on mildly warm days. I don't see how a new clutch will survive when real summer heat arrives. I don't know much about owls, though I'm learning, so maybe they have more heat tolerance then that. San Carlos is near the ocean, but I know that area can get really hot in summer.
It seems to be forbidden to talk about these concerns in chat. People get all defensive or frantic.
Thanks again for your input, Stacey

Roni said...

Thank you so much, Stacey! I AGREE with you! It drives me nuts, too, how so many on the chat chastise people for speaking realistically. It's ridiculous. They live in a dream world. Thanks for your common sense and for setting things straight!

Anonymous said...

I think when we entice wild animals to come into our domain and set up "home" there is an obligation to help them succeed. I do not want to criticize but this setup does not appear to be in the best interest of barn owls when they begin to fledge. From the videos I've seen elsewhere, the owlets fall more than fly during their first attempts and they will climb back up to their boxes using their talons. The Royal owlets are suspended on a slick, straight pole with no apparent means to climb their way back up. They cannot fly straight up as they will not have enough lift in their wings to do it. The tree nearby does not look close enough or adequate to help them back to the safety of their nest. This will be painful and upsetting to watch. I know Carlos and Donna care for this owl family very much and I cannot imagine the stress they will endure having this play out in their backyard.
I have spent time in the main chat and I agree that there's a different attitude there that restricts realistic opinions. Even suggesting a little more help is needed for these owlets to fledge is met with anger and criticism (the MODS going so far as even banning and deleting comments).
Owlets have a high mortality rate as it is. Why take a chance on making it higher? Please suggest perches that gives Max, Pattison, Austin and Westley every opportunity to survive.
And Tom, if you are reading this, please reconsider the placement of the boxes you put up in the future.

Anonymous said...

I also noticed that Owliver and Owlivia's box is not near a tree. I guess the owls don't have instinct that tells them to pick a nest near a tree because they evolved before the invention of owl boxes - I assume barn owls would have nested in tree cavities before people came and built barns, owl boxes etc? I have seen cases where barn owls nest in holes in cliffs (there are some at Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge) and great horned owls sometimes do that too (I've heard of them nesting in cliffs, also there is a pair that nests in the ruins of a church in New Mexico.) I'm curious how those babies fledge, now that this discussion has come up. I hadn't really thought about it before.

Anonymous said...

I share your fledge concerns as well. I've observed owls for some time now, (my favorites - the Tawny Owls in Estonia - live cam here- - she's back yet again and has 4 eggs at the moment) and always enjoy the end of the story so to speak. When the last owlet leaves the nest, it's a profound moment and the closing of a chapter in a wonderful story. I don't want to see it end in disaster either.

I also hope the box owner where Owlivia resides will remedy this too. I haven't heard Carlos or Donna speak of it (if they have I missed it), but perhaps they have plans already in the works.

A future design for this type of box could include an artificial tree trunk with limbs that encase the metal pole? Not sure if such a design exists but it's a thought.

However, I have concerns about modifying a box while there are owls nesting in it. I have never seen nesting modifying until Carlos attached the small porch and a few days after, Molly decided to take a break from the nest. Too soon in my own observation experience. It may not have disturbed them in the moment, but I really think it might have created a strange new sound near the box, spooking her. What do you think?

asdf said...

Quick update: Donna Royal just mentioned in chat that she's been reading Stacey's blog, and that they'll be adding more fledging perches this weekend!

Roni said...

Oh, "asdf," I'm so glad to hear it! I knew they wouldn't allow a disaster to happen if there was something they could do about it!

Teresa said...

I have been considering putting an owl box up in our yard and now I know where I should do it. Naturally, I would have thought a pole, also, but now I know that the tree in my backyard would be best. Before I ever thought about the perches, I was concerned about the heat. I finally convinced myself that most birdhouses were hot,and the birds were okay with that, especially those that I see on a post.
I can't wait to see the new perches go up. I knew, also, that Carlos would do something. He just had to take the time to do the research and find out exactly what to do.

Ter-o-fla said...

This is so good, because we are all learning so much! That, to me, is the point of life - to learn things all the time. :) Thank you for contributing to that!

Eva =uD said...

Oi Stacey!
Eu já havia lido seu post antes, mas nao me sobrou tempo para deixar um comentario... entao voltei aqui, para poder comentar =]
Eu nao sou nem de longe uma profissional no assunto, mas nao posso negar que tudo isso me fascina um bocado. Gostaria de aprender mais sobre corujas.
Carlos com toda certeza vai acabar descobrindo o que já sabemos [graças a você! Haha =D] e eu acredito que ele fará isso antes da "data" em que os owllets começaram a se exercitar.
Mais uma vez, lhe dou os parabens pelo seu trabalho. Você é minha inspiração! Como está a sua saúde? Eu realmente espero que esteja bem. Ainda estou me lamentando por não poder ir ao WA Event...
Onde está a traduçao em portugues/espanhol do blog?
Com muita amizade,

pam said...

Stacey, I have just a small criticism but first I want to make sure you know that I have read your blog and will be ordering your book and respect your work, your writing, and your experience very very much. I also appreciate all of the information you are giving us and staying in touch with the Owl Box. But, I think you are a tad over the top with the realisms. There is a sharp edge that tends to appear in your writing that I just don't feel necessary, personally speaking of course. A couple of examples.....The seal that got eaten really wasn't even necessary to bring up. Some of your possible scenarios on how the owlets could get hurt or die really isn't necessary in the detail you give. You have experienced much more life and death situations with animals than the average "Joe" so it is 2nd nature to you. But when you write for an audience that does not have the same experiences, it's a little harsher on us to hear. And I must admit my stomach gets in knots when I hear of detailed accounts of how little animals die or get hurt. Yes of course we can stop reading your blog and maybe some of us might have to stop, it's definitely up to us. But I really want to continue to hear your sweet stories, your life experiences, and take on things in a less edgy way. Please don't take offense, just trying to point out another side of things.

Anonymous said...

It is not Stacey's responsibility to sugarcoat the reality of nature on her own blog -- it is up to you as an adult to rise to the occasion and face it. If you are going to be a spectator to nature, this is part of it. Otherwise, perhaps another hobby would be suitable for your temperament.

Best wishes.

Roni said...

Stacey, I don't agree with Pam. First of all, I appreciate all the details, and I totally understand why you go to such lengths to make your point, given the uniformed talk that goes on in the chat room criticizing what you say. Second, this is YOUR blog, and you can feel free to say whatever you want on YOUR blog. :) That said, I know that Pam didn't mean any offense.

Anonymous said...

Whether someone is offended by what Stacey writes or not (which I'm not), if it makes the owlets safer and gives them a little extra advantage in life, then that's what counts. The odds are already stacked against them as it is. If a dose of "reality" gets someone's attention to help, then more power to her.

CatGirl said...

Stacey...would you guess that poison is suspect in the deaths of the O&O owlets?

Monica K. said...

Stacey, thank you so much for your efforts here. What Carlos has done in establishing the owl box is absolutely fantastic, and your input doesn't diminish that one bit--it will simply help increase the odds that the owlets fledge to adulthood safely.

As a scientist myself (though I study humans, not owls), I also appreciate greatly your objective stance... even when it means offering possibilities that are unpleasant to consider.

Those who are made uncomfortable by your comments should consider the very real likelihood that without your expertise, Carlos may not have been made aware of the problems with the fledging environment, with disastrous consequences. I am very thankful that you have taken the time to educate all of us. :)

morganminpin said...

Stacey, I'm really enjoying your blog and don't agree with Pam's comments about it being too "realistic" - you are a scientist (I am too) and scientists deal with facts and data, not making things nice so nobody gets upset. I hope you will give your opinion of what might have killed Owlivia's and Owliver's two youngest, so suddenly and so close together in time. I'm coming to Julian tomorrow to meet you, looking forward to it.

Charlotte said...

Stacey, please don't change a THING about what you share with us here. Just as we are watching nature being REAL and uncensored while observing both Molly and McGee's and Owlivia's nest boxes, you are sharing the REAL from your incredible well of knowledge and considerable experience. Because the majority of us will never devote even a fraction of the time that you have in learning all that you have about these wonderful creatures, it is a gift to us and to the owls you love that you choose to inform and educate whoever is interested with this blog. I am grateful beyond words for what you give so freely here.

Pam, I thought you started your entry beautifully.. by owning your experience around Stacey's realisms. I know that this kind of realism is not for everybody and that's fine too! What I do ask, Pam, is that you please don't speak for "us" as though we all felt the same way. Yes, hearing those stories was tough for me, I cried. I do, however, personally value the nature of realism that Stacey uses in her writing. Hey, the owlets WILL get their perch system!!

gcopelandrn said...

Stacey, I applaud the positive tone of your blog today and your optimistic expectation that Carlos is listening (even if only through Donna) and will do all he can to "make it right."

I have always learned that birds are in much more danger from extreme heat than from cold--and your observations are a reminder of that. It IS important for Carlos to think ahead about the possibility of a second brood in that box in the heat of summer.

The atmosphere in the main chat room there is generally not conducive to the sharing of concerns--no matter who states them or how they are phrased. "Cute and fuzzy and 'nice'" are the buzz words. I sure agree with the "cute and fuzzy" part, but I find their use of the word 'nice' confusing if not downright suspect. I wish there were more independent oversight of how the chat room is moderated so that it could be a forum for sharing facts as well as feelings. When concerns are met with the answer "It's just nature," that is disingenuous. The placement of the box is not "natural," and I appreciate Allison's point that owls evolved before there were "owl boxes" and thus have no instinct for anticipating temperature problems and fledging issues. That's where these owls need our help!

But, I choose to share your optimism that someone is paying attention to this and will act in time. And I will continue "agitating" in chat (and trying to keep my tone as positive as yours is, Stacey). Thanks for setting a great model for us.

I read "Wesley" when it first came out. Today, I have picked up a brand new copy of "Wesley" for myself and one for a friend, and will bring them both to the event in Bellingham on May 1.

Take good care of yourself! It's clear there are many people who value and appreciate you.

owl said...

Love your blog..don't change a thing.

Read your book and loved it. Read most of it for hours at work.

One of my favorites part in your book is when you started throwing mice to the owlets in La Costa. That would have also been the course in my nature to take.

Thank your for sharing your knowledge with us.

HeyNicePlanet said...

I support any effort the Royals make to help the owlets in their fledging process, but, I wanted to post a note for accuracy. The photo of the Royals's backyard posted on your blog - and on their Molly's blog ( is a photo that was taken after their fence fell down in a storm.

See photo here:,0
The caption reads:
Notice the wind had blown down the fence. This is how we discovered that there were a pair of owls living in the box. We went out to repair the fence. The fence has been repaired.

You can see the layout of the new fence, the owlbox, the nearby tree, and the now 2 ladders (one of which the parent owls are using as a perch) in this video news story by cbs8:

"Owl Cam fans frantic because Molly is Missing"
If you go forward to time 1:42 of 3:22 in the video - and pause it - you'll get a better sense of the Fledging area. The owlets may enjoy the new fence and the ladders.

Stacey - I really enjoy reading your Blog posts - and the comments. And your visits to the Ustream chat. The chat can be difficult due to limits on number of characters you can type - and how often you can type. I think this exacerbates misunderstandings - you don't have room to add caveats... Most of the time... there are exceptions, we only know a bit, but this is what we have... Not the easiest form of communication. As my Mom would say "surprising it works as well as it does". I look forward to all that is coming next.

Roni said...

It does look somewhat better with the fence and ladders, but I wonder if they're high enough and close enough? I'm sure they will be useful as the owlets progress in their flight training, but it seems that they would need something closer and as high as the box when they first start to venture out. I'm no expert, but that's what I thought Stacey said previously. Is that right, Stacey?

Victoria said...

I applaud Allison and gcopelandrn for their comments. Most people that bother to watch a wildlife cam want to learn something. Carlos has reached out to many school aged children with this forum and, like it or not, has a responsibility to them.

Some say we have to tone down reality for the children. I was fairly outraged when I discovered as an adult what really happens to animals in slaughter. Why hadn't an adult done something to make it more humane? Why had I been lied to as a child?

Children want the truth, so pretending that only sweet things happen in the owl box is in fact lying to the child.

Joy and Doug said...

Carlos has installed a new platform - so all is well. It is visible when he first turns Owl Box 2 on. I don't know if it will show up once it gets dark though.