Friday, May 14, 2010

EDITED/Ammended: The goal is to mimic nature, not prevent all aspects of nature

Some of the commenters objected to creating a way for owlets to climb back up andonto a branch, because a predator could use the same contraption to climb up and get to the owlets.

This does happen in nature, occasionally, but remember, we aren't trying to outdo nature, but rather, to imitate it.

I think the question of predation is not an issue. If we are trying to make it as close to a natural situation, which is the hollow tree, then predation is a NATURAL problem to have.

BUT, having thought the matter over further, why shouldn't we try to figure out a way to reduce predation, so as to offset the tremendous damage being done by the "rodent control" boxes (maybe we shouldn't even call them owl boxes, eh?).

You know how there are natural scents that you can buy in gardening catalogs and such, to repel deer from your roses (garlic?) or repel rodents (mint? they hate mint)..I wonder if there is a strong scent that can be put on the posts or trees where there are owl boxes that say to the predator, say to a raccoon, "EEEWWW! Don't climb THIS tree! THIS tree is totally undesireable." It's a good idea! At first, I thought, "well that's pretty normal to face predation in a tree and there's nothing we can do about that." but then thought, "Hey, why not try? So many owls get killed by unnatural forces such as cars and poisons and people's dogs, that it couldn't hurt for us to try to balance that by discouraging unneccesary predation". It's not as if raccoons rely upon owls for their daily bread. They get along just fine w/o killing owls, as do other predators...

So I think our commenter is on to something. Does anyone know of such a substance or where to find out about such a thing? I'd say if we could discourage raccoons and cats we'd have done a lot to help the owlets in the trees.

--------Here's what I said before, when I was thinking there was nothing we could do about it anyway --------

The number of owlets who fall to their deaths and are not able to fledge and go on to reproduce themselves is massive, compared to the small number of owlets who would be found and killed by predators. What we're trying to do is imitate nature so that they can branch and fledge, not prevent every possible scenario that they WOULD face in nature.

Better to have a way to climb up than to have no way, and for them to have to just sit on the ground to wait for a predator to find them. The more the owlets can climb up and move into their box when they feel exposed, the more likely they'll be able to avoid predators.

Lying on the ground w/ a broken wing, or even being down but unable to climb up all but guarantees death by predator.

The way to keep predators from discovering the owlets has more to do with not putting the human scent all over everything, which might cause a predator to climb up out of curiosity.

All this to say, we are not trying to prevent actual acts of nature, but we are trying to prevent unnatural and all but guaranteed death caused by these careless setups for babies.

But I now disagree w/ myself and think that we can probably come up with a way to discourage predators from coming up the trees, and still allow the owlets to be able to climb them, and hopefully, that could be done through scent. It's worth a try! Thanks for bringing this question up!



leslie said...

Starting out as Molly chat enthusiast in the beginning, I too am very dismayed at the suppression and removal of comments and questions, to further whatever agenda they want to adhere to including recipe chat etc. I started googling barn owl box construction and the Barn Owl Trust shows photos of boxes all with some type of ledge. And they note that pole boxes are the least desirable. I am starting to wonder if Molly's type of box originated primarily to house owls for rodent control and are less accommodating to the actual requirements of owl families. As I local, I wanted to support the City's planned projects for the owl box placements in parks etc, but now I am not so sure!

Dadu said...

Leslie; I say go ahead and get involved with the city's owl box plan and educate them when they meet to plan. If you are unable to meet with them give the addresses so that some of us who can write letters will get the information to them. Right now the action would be to delay them putting up boxes until a safe design has been determined.
Stacey is providing us with facts here on her blog to use when we write letters. (We will always credit her for them)

HeyNicePlanet said...

HI Stacey - just wanted to say - I did not mean my question as an objection - I was just concerned about the predator issue - thanks very much for your response. We need an emoticon that means - sincere question - not objection - ;).

Stacey O'Brien said...

Hi! I didn't think you were objecting! I thought it was an important point to address! Please know that I am not easily offended and am slow to think that people are objecting when they bring up a point! It may have seemed like my response was personal, and if it seemed that way, I do apologize.

I just got to thinking about what you said and asked myself, what DO we do about that, or do we need to try to do something about that, or what? And then, after thinking about it, did that post. But it wasn't about you at all! I'm sorry, truly, if it seemed that way.

We all need to feel free to ask questions and say what's on our mind! If we can't do that, we won't be able to address things that maybe no one has thought of. Just because I'm a biologist or whatever, doesn't mean I've thought of every possible angle or contingency! So we NEED everyone's input, questions, concerns, thoughts - to make sure we've thought through these things. Because, believe me, if we don't, someone else will!

So please don't feel shy about bringing up thoughts and concerns!

I know I've been strong in some of my words, concerning the owletls' safety and the way some people don't care, and how all they care about is their rodent control. Others just don't know about the issue - it's not that they wouldn't care if they knew.

But I'm not someone who takes things overly personally or gets huffy if someone questions something that's bothering them. I know you have a heart for the owls and are very involved, so I sure hope I didn't put you off w/ my response!

I took your concerns seriously and then responded w what ended up being my point of view on the issue. Doesn't mean that's the only point of view.

In fact, I wonder if there's a chemical (nontoxic) that could be used at the base of where boxes are set up, that would be off-putting to predators who use scent...something that says to them through their nose - "Ugh! I don't want to climb that tree".

In the paperback version of the book I have a section in the back where I talk about owl facts, and I warn birdwatchers not to touch the tree trunk where there's a nest they're watching, because the human smell will spark the curiosity of such predators as raccoons and might lead them right up the tree to the owls' nest!

So...maybe we can come up with a scent signature that does the opposite and DOES protect the owls, even though they're so accessible in a tree. Any thoughts?

If you like this idea, could someone run it by the yahoo group? I can't right now cuz I have to go to bed, and worry that I'll forget...

So, see, by bringing up the issue, you may spark an answer that could make a big difference to the owls!

Please, keep your ideas coming!