My first priority was to finish up my owl cages on my Deluxe gourd racks. My jerry-rigged, owl interference didn't work as well on those racks last year and I've no doubt that I'll be seeing my Great Horned Owl again this year and possibly, my Barred Owl as well.
I would have caged these 2 racks last year, however, I could never come up with an idea that would work, both because these racks had no place to mount homemade supports for the wire and there were also weight considerations (it's windy here in the spring!). In summer of 2015, we figured out what we needed to do. I ordered the same stainless steel arms for these racks from the original manufacturer, only the length of these arms would be changed to 36" and they would have the same gourd mounting holes as the originals. I ordered 8 arms per rack as that would be enough to support the type of wire cage I needed to build.
Here's what my racks looked like last year, just using garden stakes as a 'cage' to interfere with any owl messing with them.
I decided that I would use 4 panels of 4 foot-high welded-mesh wire fencing, per rack. Each panel is cut to 56" wide, allowing me to bow them out almost 10" from the front of each gourd. I was surprised how light the 4 panels were, as I gathered them up and carried them out to the first rack. The top of each panel is mounted on a stainless steel rod and I added the heavy duty garden stakes along the top in between the new stainless rods, to add more support.
|Note the two new, extra long stainless rods. Each panel is cinched together with a heavy duty zip tie, tightening it down on the rod.|
|A smaller zip tie was added inside on just the rod (not holding anything), but will help keep the outside yellow zip tie from sliding inward.|
|Each rectangle is 2" wide - you can see the cage is at least 10" out in front of each gourd entrance.|
As with my other rack that I enclosed a couple of years ago, I will need to work a little more slowly and be more cognizant of where my face is at all times, since some martins tend to flush out of the gourd at the very last second.
The fencing is 48" high so it drops below the most bottom gourds about 6". I will have to monitor to see if that's going to be sufficient
|East Rack - 3/26/2016|
|Mid Rack - 3/26/2016|
Each cage took 35 - 40 minutes to install and I was really glad that I made the changes early in the day, since it took the colony some time to adjust to their new surroundings. So, 38 feet of mesh wire fencing, a couple of packs of zip ties, some heavy duty stainless steel rods, 24 feet of undersill trim to make some nice, 4"x4" landing spots, a handy pair of wire cutters and a good pair of leather work gloves and I'll be able to better sleep at night. I think my most stressful time last year was when the new fledges came home late in the evening and hunkered down on the inside gourd arms. I knew those 'easy catches' were going to attract the owl and I spent many hours & nights outside with them, trying to gently encourage them inside or leave the site. With these new cages, they can safely roost on the arms if they want and stick their tongues out at the GHO when she comes.
Some were initially frightened by the changes, fluttering around and around the outside of the cages, while others flew under and straight up to their gourd without missing a beat. Some ended up hanging upside down on the cage, and some landed on top and dropped right through to their gourd. Some of the territorial fighting resumed, with the males quickly reclaiming their gourds as their competitors dropped through the top of the wire in full battle mode, proving that each of these birds have their own character and personality as unique as we humans.
I had a really hard time not laughing out loud (and I can laugh really loud) at some of the antics in this video. Enjoy!