Saturday, June 5, 2010

BIG NEWS! Tom Stephan is joining us! (this is one of 2 posts today so don't miss the one below this one!)

This is WONDERFUL NEWS! Here is my answer to Tom. I hope all of you will take this same attitude and let bygones be bygones, and work together with Tom to come up with a nesting and branching system that will allow all owlets to survive in the way they would in a natural hollow tree setting. I'm SO HAPPY TO HEAR from Tom and believe he is sincere! After all, he probably started this whole business of building barn owl boxes because he was interested in the owls. It has taken all of us awhile to realize the extent of the branching problem, so let's welcome Tom with open arms and be his ally!!!

Here's my response to Tom, followed by his comment/letter to us:

This is very brave of you to come here and be willing to work with us to help change the way owlboxes are made and installed, and to work with us in making branching systems. I am THRILLED And I hope everyone will help you to find the right solutions. You have a huge influence in the greater San Diego area, and could do so much to help the owls with an improved box and branching system! I'm really, really excited to have you on board and am looking forward to working together to make a difference for the owls.

I think that for a long time no one has realized the problem, so I don't fault you for that. And I know that you have felt attacked by people in the past, which makes it even harder to say, "Ok, I want to make improvements" because you feel like you have to defend yourself first!

But we will not attack you. We will work with you for a greater outcome, and I think the result will be a triumph for the owls and for the humans alike, and that your improved design could become the prototype for owlboxes w/ branching systems worldwide, if we do this correctly!

Right now we're doing research - looking for photographic and video resources that show owls branching - unfortunately it sounds like Carlos will not let us use any of his footage, although it shows so well how owlets branch about 2-3 weeks before they can fly well, and it shows how they learn and train their wings on the branching system Carlos finally did put in place.

We're also looking into box designs all over the world.

I'm going to post this answer to you so it's not buried in the comment section.

People in the alliance, let's work closely with Tom. He is not here for us to attack him. Let's put the past behind us and move forward together to learn what the owls NEED to survive according to their natural behavior, and help Tom to set up what could become the prototype for other successful nesting and branching systems!

I'm very, very excited to have Tom on our team and wanting to work with us!

Thank you so much, Tom! Welcome!

Stacey O'Brien

Here's Tom's letter to us:

Tom Stephan said...
Stacey and friends of owls,
After some careful consideration, I wish to join your goal of state and federal standards for the construction and installation of barn owl nesting boxes. These laws could be very much like the falconry regulations that I abide by everyday when housing and flying my trained raptors.

I have new fledging posts in service and am dreaming up new owlbox designs that have a catch pan "porch" under the provided perch. That I hope you will approve of. Also I try to install these boxes next to trees for shade and comfort and for later fledging when I can, but some properties new and have no trees a few have been installed in the sun. They all have fledged young that fluttered down to the ground and vertically walked/ flew (I use the term srambled) back up to the top of the fence and then into the box after 2-3 days, but there is as yet no studies to show any mortality, if there is any. So, I could provide a double roof affair for those boxes in the sun needing some insulation and a ramp affir for them to regain the porch therby regaining the perch and the the box. The newest box design is a two pole mounted "Castle" with a cleanout trap and spacious "drawbridge" doorway that is wide eneough for the entire brood. Under the door way and just below the box is an oval plywood board that I call the "moat" that would act as a catch pan for fledging owls. Please feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts on my new configurations or any part of the installation process Please anyone may contact me please at or just call me at 760 445 2023 Thanks, Tom Stephan

Let's work WITH Tom for the betterment of all barn owls and let anything any of us has said be put behind us. It's the only way to move forward! I admire Tom for being so willing to do this! YAY!

Stacey O'Brien

June 5, 2010 3:41 AM


Dadu said...

I have always felt that Tom had the potential to be our biggest ally and had probably been misjudged because I never could find evidence that anyone knew him will enough to make such negative statements.

This is wonderul! He has so much experience and is in a place where the results of the designs can be observed. I can see volunteers in the San Diego area organizing to help with observation and documentation of his owl boxes already installed. Perhaps interviewing past owners observations, etc. So exciting!

mspeg said...

Great news! Welcome, Tom and kudos, Stacey!

Ter-o-fla said...

too cool!

I am very pleased and heartened by this turn of events! :)

Dadu said...

I found a site (posted in BOA) that sells owl boxes with a bottom slot to allow the owl to scratch debris out. I observed the BOs at Starr Ranch a few months ago, when the owlets were older, to scratch up quick a dust storm in their tree cavity. Is this really an attempt to clean out their nest and is it regular BO behavior?

Claudia; aka dadu4barnies

P.S: This is really beautiful to hear and watch right now.

Heather said...

My first impressions of Tom were not good ones, but they were only formed from listening to what others had said about him. Then I watched his posts in the O & O chat and began to think that he wasn't a bad guy after all. Certainly all of us have learned a lot from this experience, Tom included. When I first observed the chat at the O & O and M & M sites, I agreed with the predominate viewpoints about the owlets leaving the nest and thought a lot of people were worrying about nothing. Then, after reading Stacey's blog and other sources, I gradually came to understand the truth. It is truly heartwarming to watch others grow and learn and come away with something that they didn't even know they were looking for, by opening their hearts and minds. That's what the gaining of wisdom is all about. Welcome, Tom!

RainbowGirl said...

This is incredibly positive news. I'm so glad!

Kathlene said...

I am so happy about this recent news, that I have chicken skin. Thank you so much Tom!

Lynn said...

When I first read that Tom was joining the BOA I felt a little like that squirrel Stacey saw in the forest...frozen. For a moment, I couldn't believe it was the same Tom I'd heard about in the Molly chat room. But then, realization, and WOW! What great news! Tom, thanks for caring about the owls!

Lorena, sometimes... said...

in large part i believe we have Ms. Owlivia (Sandra LaMarche) to thank for this. Tom came to the O+O chat via his friendship with her, and to watch along with us and also to investigate how his new landing pads and ramps would work for the Punks ... and they have, beautifully! Tom has been more than gracious in participating in chat there, even though it got adversarial and emotional at times. i am so happy to read that the conversations there suggesting Tom and Stacey come together for the welfare of the owls has become a reality!!! i would bet that Ms. LaMarche would be willing to share her wonderful video of the beautiful Punks and their fabulous adventures in learning to fly!!! this is great news, the sky is the limit ...

thanks Stacey,
gine_and_lil (friend of and chatter at O+O+Punks)

DJ Sommers said...

This is such great news. I have been following the chat on the O&O site and have been excited by some of the conversations with Tom.

This is REALLY great news. Thank you Tom for joining us. We are looking forward to your ideas and expertise.


Chris said...

Welcome, Tom, and Gratz, Stacey!!

Great news...and in addition to better new boxes, it also means possibly even more business for Tom,with his old customers, because he can now go to all those sites where the original boxes were installed and sell them an "upgrade addition" to their box, based on "new research that shows the need for branching".

I am sure that almost every present box owner would want to buy the addition, especially if a good brochure could be made showing the purpose and benefit of it. A premade perching scaffolding could be designed as a simple structure that could be added somehow to the pole right below the box.

He could make a ton of money with that alone...and a ton more babies would live!

This is just the best news!!!

joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
silkenpaw said...

Welcome, Tom! I am so glad you are joining us!

Anonymous said...

This is the best news ever! I'm thrilled for Tom to be joining the BOA in creating the safest habitats for precious owls.

Welcome aboard Tom!

chipmonk said...

I am thrilled to have you with us Tom,It will make our goal much eaiser to reach.I can't thank you enough,we all thank you!.Looking forward to working with you.Thank you also Stacey,for teaching us all,and showing us the way.

Tom Stephan said...

I checked your blog after coming home just now and I am quite touched.
I could not sleep last night mulling over all this in my head and finally said to myself that intuition will have to make this decision as my logic was failing me. "If its good for the owls- everything will fall into place" I said to me. So I got up at 4:00am and wrote you.
I love owls and all raptors and am a nature freak in general( I fought a number of ill concieved housing projects in the past, one currently,that caused the abandonement of Golden Eagle nests or "eyries" So I am used to defending wildlife). I could not help but think last night that the internet is popularizing Barn Owls and one amatuer is makeing a three ring circus out of these beautiful feathered dinosaurs. So I agree with you Stacey,time is of the essence. Next breeding season we may see real exploitation. If it gets out of hand the U.S. Fish and Wildlife may step in. I have seen them in action before and I would rather have them on our side.
I put up three boxes today and have some images to share for feedback. May I post these and if so where?

Susan said...

This is wonderful news! I'm so glad. It will be very important for others who may want to put up owl boxes now.

Victoria B said...

Tom: This is exciting news to know that you have decided to help us design, modify and promote safe barn owl boxes. People who love raptors as much as you do have a powerful voice.

We are lucky to have you on our team.

Thank you,and welcome.

PaulaP said...

Hi Tom. I am PaulaP1 and we chatted in the O&O room this last week about the issue of boxes. I just read Stacey's post on the Wesley site and am pleased that you wish to work on creating boxes that work for the fledgeling owlets. I am anxious to see the ideas you design. I think that your input would help and if it ends up that you sell the completed design, I see it as an opportunity for you to teach the unknowing public and benefit from selling the fledging-assist boxes. I truly hope that this will work out to the benefit of the BOA, you and most of all, the barn owls.

Anonymous said...

This is the most encouraging thing I've read in such a long time. Stacey and Tom, you both really are to be congratulated. When the emphasis is placed where it SHOULD be -- owl health and safety -- then yes, things will fall into place.

It's really important that we all educate people so as to avoid the "101 Dalmatians" syndrome, where the popularity of a certain owlcam translates into hundreds of ill-conceived box installations by well-meaning people. This is a huge step in that direction, and you all are to be really congratulated.

Stacey O'Brien said...

Hi Tom! Isn't this wonderful? I'm so happy!

You are welcome to post your box designs and ideas on the Barn Owl Alliance home page. There's a "photos" section as well as a "links" section that might work well for you. The address is:

We are all working together to pull all kinds of box designs into one place and to draw from each for the good features, leaving the not so great features behind. We hope to be able to recommend a specific set of specifications when we go to the regulators with our requests for changes and regulations.

I, too, worry that the popularity and the repression of information on a certain very popular box site could result in disaster, esp. when there has been a deliberate attempt to spread disinformation, or at least ignorance. So you're right, time is of the essence and we want to be prepared for next season!

I'm so glad you're a nature lover. I figured that anyone who built owl boxes must really care for the owls. It wouldn't occur to anyone to even do this if they hadn't been into the owls in the first place.

Thank you again for your decision! Together we can make a difference and you can continue your business in an improved way. You have the potential to educate SO many people! You are a major ally for the owlets!

Stacey O'Brien

melinda said...


At the Molly picnic last week in San Marcos I was chatting with the representative from the San Marcos foundation where the funds raised by Carlos and Donna are being directed. She shared with me that their focus and intentions for the initial use of funds is also toward better design of owl box systems so they too might want to join in with this new and exciting plan.

I also enjoyed meeting Tom at the picnic and sensed that he was "coming around" a lot in realizing that just a box on a pole isn't the answer. And Kudos to the O&O website - they should be getting a lot more credit for their contributions.

Kathlene said...

reading the latest comments makes even happier. Tom you are to be highly commented!
With your latest comments, I will admit, lol I was the one that spoke to you on the side of Pomerado road. When I left that day, I wanted to cry. Now all I want to do is jump for joy.
thank you, thank you, thank you!

Kathlene said...

sorry for the typo's I'm just so excited

Anonymous said...

It is great to see you here, Tom. It's all about the Owls and I love how much care and thought you are putting into design and location options.
I've really been getting nervous about owl boxes popping up everywhere that would not be safe for the creatures!
Welcome and I look forward to hearing more from you!!

Charlotte said...

Tom, I can't think of a single event since I joined the alliance that has held the promise and has provided the deep feeling of optimism that your joining us has. Thank you. THANK YOU!!

I'm going to go to the alliance site that stacey referenced above and make you your very own photo album. You can add the pictures you'd like to share with us any time you'd like!! When you log on to the site, just look for the "photos" heading on the left hand column. You'll find your album if you click on "photos". Can't wait!

Tom Stephan said...

Stacey, You made mention of how I must have delved into this occupation because I loved owls. Here is how it happened. I met a lady back in'92 who had a B-o box on a low branch of a tree very close to her kitchen window. I could see that the box had been up for some time and was as yet unoccupied. I said that in my opinion, she was not very likely to get an owl let alone a nesting pair there. It was too low and too close to the prying eyes of humans. This exposure problem was especially bad as this design had the doorway on the end so that people and other enemies of owls can see in. I did not realize this flaw about the design problem then. I just offered to put it up higher and told her that it would get owls. She explained that her late husband had put the box up from atop a ladder (very dangerous, do not attempt ) and that he faced it towards the kitchen so that she could see the owls when she was doing dishes at the sink. She said that he was sad he never had any owls. I put the box up about thirty feet and faced it northish.
She got owls in three days. She was so happy and called me early on a Saturday morning to tell me so!Her friend wanted me to install one, her friend too and so on---
The San Diego Union Tribune news paper did a full page Sunday article soon after on my efforts and the phone was almost ringing off the hook. It all felt so right. Has been that way until one of my boxes was hooked up to the internet this season.
The first design modification attempt was to alleviate the exposure problem.I tried installing partitions inside the doorway so that the owls would go around and have privacy but it added weight, labor and expense. It also reduced cooling breezes. One day I decided to try moving the doorway to the front off to one side. That way the residents would enter, perform a right angle move and settle down in the opposite side away from the door. That worked. The next problem was to figure out how to eliminate the problem of the box filling up with what I call "Barn Owl shag carpet". Clean out traps are alright for some people but most make wrong decisions about when to clean and end up diturbing the owls and I was afraid of a baby getting hurt or worse. Also, I didnt want my clients exposed to the choking dust that is inevtably inhaled. So I moved the door way so that there was aI.5 inch threshold above the floor so that the box could only fill up about 2" of carpet. This stuff when wet was vey heavy and would keep the box wet and fungussie. Bees were anthor problem but I will save that story (at the risk of boring you)for another day.
I wish to say that I am very heartened to hear all the wonderful things that people have written here about my inviting myself.
There was one gal whose comments were deleted. I feel that I have arrived here at the expense of someone else. This is not my blog.I am but another guest. But what you read from me is exactly what you get. I do not have any agendas other than what I present. If this person thinks I am a so and so or just getting on to profit,whatever please let them talk. That way she can stay here. I can fend for myself. I am here to help out any way I can. If it benefits wildlife its all good.
Regards, Tom Stephan

Kathlene said...

I have follow up sent to my email from this discussion. So I have a copy sent to me of the post that was delivered. I wish I had kept it for you Tom. It wasn't anything bad. I think they were trying to give Carlos credit for you being here. But they were pleased with the outcome.

Dadu said...

Tom it is great to read your story and history of making boxes. I'm so glad you are here. Concerning the deleted message. If if said "This post has been removed by the author." that means the person who wrote it deleted it. Usually, it is because of a typo or error of some kind. Other people mistake those for possible insults or something also but they should only be considered that they were deleted because the author made a mistake. e.g. If I post this message and then take a look at it and am embarrassed by sentence construction I can't go in and edit it, so I have to delete it and it will say "This post has been removed by the author".

Looking forward to working together with the group.

Anonymous said...

We're so grateful for the choice you made to join the BOA, Tom!!
This is SO moving in the right direction! Thanks for the massive infusion of hope!

Tom Stephan said...

Thank you for clarification on the deleted post(I am embarrased).

Anonymous said...

I loved hearing your story about how our involvement began. It's very touching.
I'm glad you are here to share your experience.
Carlos is continuing to add products and step up his marketing. I love to look at the owls and sometimes comment there. I've stopped getting into it with them about Stacey and her dedication and experience. It isn't worth it. They made sure the link to the book was removed. How silly and petty.
Anyway, I will stay off that topic and just tell you and everyone here, especially Stacey, that I've been happily opened up to a whole new world of wildlife. We all need to protect them all and that is the most important thing.
I just LOVE to learn!
Thank you all so much!

Anonymous said...

there is no reason to be embarrassed!! Just don't worry about deleted posts! : )

regihunter said...

BIG NEWS! This is wonderful news, I was involved in the chat at O&O site. I am sure everyone at O&O site is so happy about this. We are all a part of the puzzle that helps our little owls who we have all come to love.

Thank you Tom & Stacey
Blessings to all.

wess_liana said...

Just got home from camping to find this fabulous news!!! WELCOME TOM! Like Dadu, I've never thought that Tom was a 'bad guy'... I admit that I was very confused by the turn of events at the M&M site, because in all the chats I've ever had with Tom there (Tom - I'm the lady hunter with the Benelli and graphic designer who you chatted with a while back) he was knowledgeable, reasonable and kind... not at all like how some were characterizing him... So I just chalked it up to an internet misunderstanding and stayed out of it. I am so glad to now see that my intuition was right. I'm so glad to see Tom on board with the BOA. He will be an awesome ally in the SD area and an invaluable resource for box design and testing! I am so happy!! Again...

IBDEB said...

Great news that the owls are everyone's #1 priority. It's always a shame when the almighty dollar muddies things up. I feel Tom Stephan's heart is in the right place.... not sure if "we" aren't going to make a dollar off of something, then we can't admit "we" were hasty in banning some people. (You can fill in the "we" part.) Welcome Tom!!!

Tom Stephan said...

yesterday I was called out to a ritzy horse ranch. Seems that they have BO's nesting in a Met5al barn eve. two owlets fledged. One went to9 the Fund For Animals wildlife rehab. the second was just sitting there on a wall at eye level, under the site.
I tried to sell them a fledging post, but they didnt go for that. so I had them fetch a ladder and rested that near the nest site, in the rafters.
The sun heats up the barn to temeratures so hot its amazing that thy can fledge young there. They instructed me to install a box, which I did, high up in a eucalyptus tree.
The youngowl was still sitting on the wall when I was done with the install, but in the full sun. We hitched a hose trailer and pulled it around to give it shade. he just stood there with his faced all squinched up, displaying the "I am a piece of wood look".
I took some photos of the owlet and box with a throw away camera which I will share with all of you soon.
I named him "owldo" as in Leopold.

Kathlene said...

can't wait to see the pic, what a kind thing you all did. BTW, I was the one on the motorcycle today that yelled "hi Tom"

Heather said...

Wow, you just scored big points with me, Tom - Aldo Leopold is one of my heroes. That said, I'm inspired to share a quotation from another hero of mine, John Muir, who said, "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world". So true.

Thank you, Tom, for your willingness to share your thoughts and expertise and for taking the bold step over to "the dark side", as they call us in the SP chat!

Charlotte said...

Almost have to pinch myself, Tom, after reading your post today. How wonderful, how incredibly valuable it will be to have you with us sharing real deal nest box situations and stories like you shared today. Thanks again for joining us. After the adversity that swirled around you in Mollywood, your decision to step up and make that first contact took profound courage.

I look forward to your sharing about bees. It's DEFINITELY an issue here in FL. Nancy Conney suggests WD-40 for the ceilings inside the box. Have you ever used that?

Dadu said...

Tom: Wow, I hope the BOs will use the tree box instead of the barn structure now. That was a good thing you did.

wess_liana said...

Poor little Owldo! Tom, that little guy was lucky to have you to look out for him. I hope they use the box instead of the rafters from now on! Thanks for sharing... I look forward to hearing about more of your experiences.

Tom Stephan said...

Thank you all for commending me for joining Stacey's BOA. She wants to see rodenticides banned and that is OK with me. Anything to get rid of this menace. The development of fledging structure is ongoing and important.
By the way is this the best place to post a comment to Satceys homepage news or is there a general posting spot?

Dadu said...

Right now I do not believe there is a general posting place. The usual pattern has been to post a comment to what ever blog post it pertains to here on Stacy's blog. On the BOA page leave a message under the appropriate subject or start a new subject. When Stacy gets her website going I am assuming that is where we may be doing the most communication.

Cybee said...

Oh, happy day! This is only a win-win situation! Win for the owls whose owlets will safely fledge from proper owl boxes with proper for all nature lovers and win for Tom's clients (who can now trust him to provide the best of owl boxes) and of course a win for Tom (improved reputation which promote sales! Who wants to buy an owlbox of doom!) and even a win for "rodent control" (ha....more owls that survive). I applaud this news! Thank you Tom for joining this worthy goal. We all saw how the added branching at Carlo's helped result in happy fledging . Thank you Stacey for making others aware of this need! Wesley would be so proud!

Tom Stephan said...

Well, "owldo" was able to scramble back up into my Sycamore tree via a ramp I placed next to the tree. Yesterday, his sibling, a female, was found in the neighbors yard. It was retrieved and spent the day covered in a kennel. That night, I locked the dogs in the garage, which I do every night since the fledging began and put the kennel near the ramp and opened the door. The next morning an inspection found the owlet on top of the box! It' thirty five feet up. But the real action happened last night. My wife and I were standing in the garage at about dusk when the dogs were barking at something. Wife says "there must be a cat or something!!?? I ran out telling here it is probably a baby barn owl.The baby flew into the garage with us and the dogs in tow and was lunging at everything that moved. There were some tense moments then I can assure you. Wow, I have handled all manner of raptors in my life but this one felt that if she was going to go down, she was going down swinging! All ended well as I was able to release her in the front yard again after agin putting away the dogs. But as I was walking back to go inside the house I saw another young bird glide down out of the safety of the tree and flutter to the ground. I think this behavor odd as the tree has no shortage of limbs to stay up there safe. There is a branch about three feet away and slightly below the box so its not like the owlets are diving to the ground as there is nothing to land on. The same fledging behavor can be seen on the wonderful video "Back yard Barn Owls". There is areason for everything in nature. perhaps they need to develope their endurance by fledging to the ground first as they all have done so except one. I have a booth at the Del Mar Fair, gotta go-----

Tom Stephan said...

Stacey and friends of owls,
A very nice lady called today and asked if I was intending to join the BOA. I told her that I thought I already did. She said that I had to go to this site and join as there were members who were wishing to have my input on the design.
I am posting this because I have exhasted all efforts to join the BOA. I went to the official BOA site and although there is a prompter saying "Join this Group" It will not allow me too. My daughter who is to graduate from USC next year could not figure it out either.
Maybe somone could call me at about 8 pm San Diego time Monday through Thursday and talk me through it while I sit at my home confuser.
Regards, Tom Stephan

wess_liana said...

Tom, I've contacted Yahoo to see what they can recommend. We have ongoing discussions about box design that we could sure use your input on. I'll see what they say and we can get you taken care of. I'll send you an email with my personal email address and phone number and we'll get it figured out :)