This spring I have followed the development in a box with boreal owls, and I must say it was a special experience to follow the owls out of the box and out into the big world. Well worth the preparation and 1500 kilometer of driving.
Av: Henning Harsem
It all started with inspiration by photo friends, and I did do some owl boxes earlier this winter, and placing them both in the local community here in Sorum and at Rena in Osterdalen. Most of the boxes were made of rough boards, which made the boxes approx 25 x 25 cm in bottom dimensions, and 50 cm high. Rough boards, to ensure that the owls managed to climb out of the box when that time came.
The ambitions were greater when the project started. All the boxes were originally intended as hollowed out coarse trunks, but after doing so with a trunk, that idea fell dead. Although I used a chainsaw from both ends, the job was demanding. Far more demanding than carpentrying the boxes. Maybe especially because I was so lucky to be able to use my stepfather's carpentry workshop. Here, everything was in place to speed up production, and several boxes were completed in a few hours.
After agreeing with the relevant landowners on placement, it went out into the woods in February to hang up the boxes. Contacting the landowners was basically just a joy, and several were out hanging up the boxes with me. If you are wondering who owns the forest you want to use for this in Norway, norgeskart.no is a great source of knowledge about the owner. Here you can get contact information completely free of charge via the land register, if you log in with id.
It took a few weeks before I expected a bird to moove in, although I had heard that the owls could probably move into the box as early as February. I checked after a few weeks, and saw on a field camera that one of the local boxes had been visited by a owl. It was probably not happy with the venue, because it decided to stay elsewhere this season.
At Rena things did go better. In a box that had been hollowed out by a spruce trunk, a boreal owl had moved in. It quickly looked out as I moved below the box, which hung a few meters up in a pine tree.The area where the box was hung up was a varied forest area with a mixture of open pine forest, old spruce rust and young deciduous forest nearby. A little unsure how important this is, but the choice of place also happened due to observations of the owl via sound in the autumn evening the year before.
The weeks passed, and I waited more and more for the time when the owls would come out of the box. Without reliable field cameras installed, I was often up to check the status. One thing I was determined on, was to achieve a photo opportunity of the first hours the kids were out of the box. This was also the only checkout where there was birds, so there was no need to prioritize.
It was easy to know that they were there, for just a little movement nearby, then it came sound from the box. On June 13, I get a message from the field camera that there was movement on the ground in front of the box. I see nothing in the picture, but realize that something must have triggered the camera. I call my stepfather who takes the trip, and he tells me that the owls are out of the box. After some searching, he finds one of the kids in a small spruce tree nearby, and before we hang up, I sat in the car on the way to Rena. Yes it is a trip of almost 2 hours, but this opportunity should not go away from me.The only thing that now threatens the pictures I want is the light. It's eight o'clock in the evening, and the sun does not give me much photo light after 10 o'clock in the forest.
Well ahead, it's just like that the sun releases the forest ground, and I get some light to work with. Fortunately, it does not take long before I find the owl cub in the spruce tree, and I can secure the pictures I have worked so hard for. At least almost. Of course, not everything was perfect.The little boreal owl cub sat quietly in the same place in the dense spruce tree, so the possibilities for wiring taillights and sections were very limited. But this is how it is with nature photography, we do not control everything, and that is also part of the charm.
Despite a good session of exploration, I did not find other kids this evening, and had to settle for this. Despite some meager photo results, I was pleased to be present this first day out of the box for this little one. A great moment after a lot of effort. But despite miles, in fact maybe as much as 150 kilometers, with driving to see the development, the plans are even bigger for next season.Then there will be more boxes and cladding, also for Great Grey Owl and Eurasian Eagle-owl.
You can safely say I have been hooked by owls.