by HAT Volunteer Meg Lovett
The first phase of HAT’s Western Screech Owl Stewardship Project is complete!
HAT’s Western Owl Screech Project is focused on monitoring and providing habitats for the native species. Unfortunately, this owl is under threat due to severe habitat loss and increased populations of their main predators, i.e. the Barred Owl.
As a new addition to the HAT team, I tagged along with a seasoned expert in wildlife biology and long-time HAT volunteer, Ben, to visit 11 properties around the Greater Victoria Region to clean up the 80 or so installed nest boxes for the upcoming breeding season. Together we trekked – and at times stumbled – through the second growth forest, ladder and GPS in hand, to locate the boxes. Most of the boxes we found had been providing occupancy to our other local residents such as squirrels or northern flickers, who had left them full of all sorts of debris. Unfortunately for them, we cleaned out their nests and put down new, dry shavings in hopes of attracting the Western Screech Owls with a comfortable and safe place to nest. Furthermore, for each box, we recorded observations such as the condition of the box, the signs of use and the level of noise surrounding the box. Now that the boxes are ready for nesting, we will check back in about a month’s time to see if the owls have taken to the boxes for their breeding season of mid-March to mid-May.
Having previously known little to nothing about owls in general, let alone the Western Screech Owl, I have now found myself becoming very passionate about the conservation of these little owls and have been able to learn so much over the past few weeks. At HAT, we will all be keeping our fingers crossed to hopefully share the same good news as last year in finding chicks in some of the nest boxes!
HAT would like to thank the property owners for their involvement with the Western Screech Owl Project.
Additionally, if you think you have may have heard the distinctive “bouncing ball, whistling hoot” of a Western Screech Owl, please contact HAT at 250-995-2428 as it would greatly help in our efforts!