"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~Wendell Berry

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ellie Mae Gets a Makeover for Her 2015 Deployment

I woke up at 3:40 AM Monday morning and decided while I was up anyway, I would check on my purple martins before snuggling back in.  With our new extremely bright LED spotlights shining on the colony, I could see every rack very clearly.  Lo and behold, there was the mighty Giselda, sitting tall and pretty, very proud of herself, on my West Gourd rack.  I watched her for a couple of minutes, then went out to scare her away.  When I checked the videos from the game cards and my Foscam camera Monday afternoon, I found that she had been here quite a while - from around 12:35 AM until I ran her off at 3:40 AM.

I had quite a few of what I thought were 'false triggers' on my game cameras, but in viewing the video from the Foscam camera, I now know why.  Giselda had been a very busy girl for those 3+ hours.  On Sunday, since I have many nestlings that will be fledging over the next week or so, the hawk attacks are increasing, I deployed a lot more decoys.  When my GHO came to hunt, apparently, she thought the decoys were making the noises she was drawn to, and she was attacking them, just out of range of my game cameras.  The 'false triggers' weren't false at all - she was just too fast for the cameras to capture her as she launched her assaults.
In this video, she had just tried a grab on the decoys by my game cameras, failed and landed up there to reevaluate her prey.
Then I found a video that made my stomach turn over and my heart skip a beat.  I watched it over & over to make sure I wasn't making it all up in my head, since the quality is not that great.  She was now attacking my housing and gourds from underneath.  After hitting the house - in the video below, it appears she tried to unsuccessfully land on the predator guard on that pole.  She flapped about, but could not gain footing on it, then fell into the yard.  She roamed around on the ground for about 4-5 minutes, then, after moving about 10' away from the East gourd rack (rack on the far left), she launched an assault under the rods that protect the gourds and attempted to grab one of the gourds.

Luckily, I let my gourds swing freely - moving back & forth with the wind, so, along with the rods interfering with her flapping wings, she could not get a grip on the swinging gourd and attempt to tear off the tunnel.  Even if the martins inside had flushed at that moment, she was still in such a precarious position that she could not grab one of them.  Still....it had to be sheer terror for the martins inside.

But the most surprising video of the night?  The one where she launched herself from the top of a gourd rack, flew past my camera and into the porch area where the new, bright LED lights had attracted a bazillion bugs.  I'm not sharing the video here as it's blurry when she flies by both times and of no use here.  She spent over 5 minutes under there - my guess is she was chasing a mouse or some of the large bugs, but the video only shows her entering and leaving the area.  Nope - this girl is not bashful of any lights!
Ellie Mae is now officially back on duty.  Stuffed with balloons to make her lighter and hanging on my shepherd's hook.  I attached a helium-filled balloon to also help drag her around and keep her moving on the hook, and that's working really well.  I'm moving her around the yard, so my GHO doesn't get too comfortable.
So far, no sightings since 3:40 AM Monday morning.  I'm hoping we can get through the next couple of weeks with this simple tactic.  Much to my husband's dismay, after seeing the grainy video and the low-quality video of her fly-in to the porch, I started talking about another camera.  He's praying the owl will leave before I solidify that plan.  Me too.