"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


Showing posts with label Missouri Great Horned Owl. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Missouri Great Horned Owl. Show all posts

Saturday, May 6, 2017

May Flowers, Martins and Mysteries

It is either 'feast' or 'famine' in Missouri when it comes to rain. This spring, we seem to be in a state of deluge.  With the breaks in the rain, my martins were able to get out and find food. The last 2 days of rain though were just too much for them and they came knockin'.  Luckily, I had a few crickets left and a few dozen eggs.
It appears my 'regulars' remember the drill.  The banded female below wasted no time being the first up to the buffet. 
At my house, you best not be late when the dinner bell rings though.
I haven't been able to get an accurate count with the rain keeping most inside their gourds, but I'm estimating there are approximately 50-60 pairs here right now. 
In fact, yesterday evening at 7:00 P.M. when the last weather system finally broke, I stepped out to see if my colony was doing okay.  I started to worry when I only counted 5 birds on the racks.  Finally, at 7:50 P.M., they suddenly started dropping out of the sky and into their gourds.  They had taken advantage of the brief amount of sunshine and gone to hunt and gather.  It's okay, I'm not offended they prefer live, squiggly stuff over my eggs and crickets.
I awoke today to a loud, raucous noise in my south yard - the sun was out and it was already above 60 degrees!  Yay!  NO crickets or eggs today! For the first time in 4 days, I was able to just cook a couple of eggs for myself.
As I waited for the weather to warm further, so I could do what I dreaded most today, I noticed my red clover was blooming.
And my homemade bird baths were filled with fresh rainwater.  Bob and I have finally found a use for all the landscape rocks.
After putting it off as long as I could, I started lowering my racks and checking each gourd, hoping upon hope that I wouldn't find what I feared most - dead, starved martins.  I breathed a sigh of relief after lowering the first 2 racks and not finding any.  Such a relief.  Then I lowered the third rack and was shocked at the condition of the wire.  My mind couldn't put 2 and 2 together to figure out how this happened.  And wouldn't you know it - I haven't started up the game cameras yet.
The top 3 broken wires in the picture were bent out and the one on the bottom was bent down and in, with its tip behind another wire.  "Ok, WHO taught my Great Horned Owl to use a set of wire cutters?", I pondered to myself and laughed uneasily.  Racoon?  No way - a racoon would have climbed up the pole and already been inside the cage, wreaking his havoc. Owl? Hmmm - could / would an owl hang on the cage and vigorously work over the joint where these wires were pulled apart?  Why not just fly up under the cage, instead - it would take a lot less energy to do that!  Would she really wear down her beak gnawing on the wire cage, when there was an easier approach?
I called Bob out to look at it and the ends of the wire where they were separated.  Click on the pictures below to see better closeups.  Lightning maybe?  But check out the picture above....the wires are bent in different directions....

So, other than the big hole in the cage that must have been created by some super-evolved Chupacabra animal here on Gobbler's Knob, all was really otherwise very well.  I found 5 eggs in a gourd on this same rack - but I doubt they're viable, since they were very cold and there were no martins around most of the day today to incubate them.  I lightly marked them with a marker, so I can keep track of their progress...or lack thereof.  
I'm not normally a 'fraidy-cat, but dang....
Ok fellow sleuth-bugs - so what was it? 


Monday, May 2, 2016

Purple Martin Sub-Adult Arrivals and an Old Friend Visits

When purple martin landlord, John Miller from St. Louis (who also manages a few public sites in Forest Park), reported a sighting of a sub-adult male on 4/22/2016, I thought he was kidding around.  But no, he was serious.  And because it was John, I knew he knew what he was talking about.  Check out his post here:
https://www.purplemartin.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=31644&p=258054#p258054
Turns out, this is his earliest sub-adult arrival ever.  I searched my colony on 4/28 and identified a rowdy, reckless sub-adult male also, along with 5 ASY banded males whose bands need to be read too!  Not my earliest arrival, but close!  On the night of 4/28, I anxiously watched as the sun sank in the western sky and 12-13 young sub-adult males and females tried desperately to find an open nest cavity.
An ASY male - banded - number to be identified (see his lower right leg).  He patiently waits as his mate-to-be inspects his new housing.
One of the sub-adult females obviously has some leucistic genes, displaying some white splotches on her head.  You can tell it's a female by her bright white undertail coverts.  The loving gaze she's receiving from all the males surrounding her is also a dead giveaway.  I've never noticed a bird with pink legs before and I wonder if that's due to the leucistic genes in her bloodline?
A sub-adult female is checked out by the eager males.  Note the white splotches on her head and her legs are an unusual pink color that I've never seen before.  I shall call her Betty Boop for her "pink stockings". 
Another sub-adult female sits nearby with perfect posture, very lady-like.  Note the very white undertail coverts on her also.  She was somebody's baby last year.
ASY male and SY female.
No group of sub-adult pictures would be complete without one of the very eager, clumsy SY males also fluttering about trying to impress the females.  Note the coloring in his undertail coverts and the purple feather splotches above his right leg and around his throat & chin.  Definitely a young male, about to take a whomping from the ASY males in the Trendsetter whose females he's trying to steal.
SY male - note the splotches of purple feathers already showing.  He will be very easy to identify and track this season.
The reason I was so anxious the night of 4/28 was because earlier in the week, the morning of 4/24/2016 an old friend had returned.  I have mixed feelings about seeing her on my game camera again.  For one thing, I was hoping she would leave us alone this year.  It is encouraging in the video that she is not actually attacking any of the housing, but simply looking like she is using the perches for hunting.

For all I know, she has been using the tops of the gourd racks for hunting most of the year, but since I don't keep the game cameras running all year due to the obvious high cost of batteries, I don't know what she's been up to.  She does look very healthy - downright fat, even.
On the other hand, it is a bit comforting, knowing I have done everything I can to protect my martins and the only way she can get to them now is if they decide to flush out of their housing.  For that, there's nothing I can do and they are on their own.  I have already found a few feathers of one bird about 100' away from my colony.  I can only hope that was from the Sharp-shinned hawk that has now moved out of the area and that was the only loss I'll see this year.  Yeah, let's just say that.
Regarding the video, I watched the ones before & after the GHO left and the patterned shadows on the video look oddly like another owl's feathers, but I cannot for the life of me, figure out how they would be spread out like that.  But they weren't there before the owl appeared or after she left.  So, is there another owl, perhaps her mate, traveling with her?  I'm not sure, but I've setup my main monitoring system now to try to watch the overall colony. Take a look and let me know your thoughts in the comments below regarding what you think the ghost shape is.

The first wave of sub-adults has definitely arrived, so I hope you have your housing open and if you're wanting to expand your colony this year, now is a good time to add more housing or gourds!



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Everything is Out of Sorts Today

We have gotten a lot of rain in the last couple of weeks - most of it in the last 2 days.  Today, I feel like everything is out of sorts, as my Grandmother used to say.  Nothing feels right.  After almost 2 years of drought, I thought we were going to lose all our fish in our ever-shrinking pond this summer.  But now it's overflowing its banks - way out of bounds.  I now have to worry that our bass and bluegill will end up in our neighbor's pond as our overflow has backed up and it drains into his pond.  Get back in your own pond.
The pond is well over 15' out of its banks - we normally ride our 4-wheelers down this path that is now filled with water.
Somehow, with so much rain, grass is growing in our driveway - way out of bounds.  I should celebrate the ladino clover in the middle of it that magically, somehow appeared.  You can't mow this stuff too much either.  After 5 or 6 mowings already, it is still blooming!
Everything is so doggone wet!  Along with 3 launch failures this morning.  They are wet & stinky.  They're not happy about this turn of events.  Neither am I.
3 new failed launches this morning
I swear, even the ticks are parachuting off the door trims and landing on my head.  I don't know where they're all coming from.  I may choose to borrow Nikki's Frontline.
Even Olivia seems out of sorts - all wet and cranky.  As I was filming her playing hide-n-seek, she stopped on the open deck and turned toward me.  As she gazed at my toes, I suddenly realized just how vulnerable my bare feet were.  I decided it was time to start acting like I knew how to River dance and I kept my feet moving until I was safely back inside the enclosed porch.

But at its root, I know why I'm out of sorts today.  After checking on my colony every 10-15 minutes last night, I was alarmed when my GHO flew out from under my deck.  I hadn't seen her come in and when I went to check the videos, I found that she had attacked the Trendsetter in between one of my checks, in a spot where a new fledge had been trying for an hour to get into a cavity.  Check out the video below - she comes in from the left and hangs on to the Trendsetter for an eternity.  In the video, the fledge flies past the camera during the attack, so fortunately, he lives to tell the tale.  Other martins flushed from the other racks too.  Silly birds....stay put!!  Worst of all, my stupid game camera (seen in the video below) is only 12-13 feet away, didn't capture any of it.  I checked it today - 99% battery.  In the heat & humidity, I was tempted to boot it across the field.  Instead, I rebooted it the standard way - hopefully, it won't have anything to capture tonight, but will be able to if needed.

After seeing a video from 12:10 AM on 6/30, it became obvious that Ellie Mae is going to have to visit the unemployment lines.  Absolutely useless.  As have been most of the other methods that people have suggested.  I am out of ideas - it is check.mate.  She will always be here.  Nothing scares her.
Lights - tried it - failed.
Radio - tried it - failed.
Lights + radio - tried it - failed.
Motion detection lights - tried it - failed.
Scarecrow - tried it - failed.
Let's face it; the only protection that works 100% of the time are the owl cages.  I have plenty of alternate food here - rabbits, feral cats, moles, voles, mice, snakes, etc.  Yet, my owl prefers an easy-to-get meal.  Well, she won't get one here as long as they stay behind the cages.  Otherwise I can't guarantee anything. But I won't kill her.  Another one will only take her place.  We will just do the best we can with *preventative* measures and accept that I have a beautiful, very smart owl.  I just need to be smarter.
I will enjoy the positive things.  At least the Compass Plant - after 6 years of waiting - is finally blooming.  This makes me happy today.  Mag.freaking.nificent!!! Beautiful, isn't it?  Definitely worth the wait.
Compass Plant - 6 years old, finally blooming.

So, what do you do when you have such an off-kilter, out-of-sorts day?  Well, you suck it up.  Thaw out some crickets, soak them in some bird-vitamin solution and stuff the wet kids full of food.  Leave them in a bucket until they're dry and put them back out in a dry gourd on the rack from whence they came. 
You stop and enjoy the clasping milkweed that has grown out of bounds - where no seed has been planted (not by you, anyway).
Clasping Milkweed (thanks for ID info to Louise Chambers)
You stop and watch your happy, chattering purple martins chasing down the bug hatches in the field, because despite my owl's best efforts, they are clearly undeterred in their mission to feed their kids, and get them flying.
You herd the fish back into the main body of the pond, by splashing about in your muck boots.  You stop and enjoy the common milkweed that is now spreading out into the yard and tell Mr. Freeze he no longer needs to mow there.

Then you park your butt on the porch with a good book, a glass of wine, a pair of binoculars and your muck boots (just in case you have more launch failures) and watch your colony for the rest of the day.  After all, it is still MY little piece of heaven, and despite all the challenges, I am diggin' it here at Gobbler's Knob.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Giselda - My Varmit-Eating GHO

This year, I decided that I wanted a wide-angle view of my entire colony at night, from a general monitoring viewpoint, allowing me to also see what may be skittering around my yard.  So, Bob did some research and found a reasonably priced Foscam security camera and hooked it up about a week ago.  We've been struggling with the range of the IR (60') and really not wanting to run power out into the yard to get the camera closer to the racks.  In my last post, I also mentioned that I was trying out a motion detection light and thought that may help scare the owl away if he ever came into the colony and triggered it on.  But since 4/18, I hadn't seen the owl and couldn't prove my new tool was working.  In fact, I was beginning to think he was filling up on my neighbor's guineas, whose numbers have gone from 20+ to 3 or 4 now.  I hear they taste like chicken.  That's the word I'm spreading anyway - 'EAT MOR GUINEAS'.
Yesterday (5/18) I pulled my game card cameras for review and found this video date / time stamped at 5/15/2015 -2:35 AM.  It was a bit alarming and given the perspective of the camera, I couldn't tell what mischief  Giselda had been engaged in before she landed on top of that pole.



The videos recorded through the Foscam camera were taking too long to scan, so I hadn't reviewed them in a couple of days and besides, the IR range and lack of illumination issues were bumming me out.  But somehow, on this night, the stars aligned, the winds were perfect, there was no rain, glowing eyes aided in tracking and the lovely glowing cobwebs added just enough annoying creepiness to make the video below quite interesting.  And I now have confirmation that a motion detection light is spectacularly useless in helping to scare a GHO away from your colony.  But it does provide some nice lighting for recording what she's up to.

I've done some cropping in the video to remove a total of almost 4 minutes of the owl turning his head away, because you really can't see anything when his glowing eyes are not looking towards the camera.  I also removed the first 2 minutes of the video where he entered stage-right, landing on the ground about 15' west of the most west rack.  I saw his glowing eyes through the noise on that side of the frame and thought for a bit that it must be a cat, a racoon or a coyote.  That is, until I got to the 2:23 minute mark and all doubt was removed - (at the 2:23 minute mark - watch the top of the leftmost gourd rack).  You have to watch the video at full-screen and watch along the right hand side - you'll see his glowing eyes periodically and her movement as she apparently glides (I don't think a GHO would run) along the ground.
This video served to provide me with a lot of relief - JOY!  Apparently, on this night anyway, she wasn't there to hunt for martins.  She was there chasing or hunting voles, moles, mice or snakes that were creeping along the ground.  Whew!  What a relief!  She can have all those varmits that she can catch!  That $79 camera just paid for itself in saving me a lot of worry & sleepless nights.  For now, my guards are still working and she seems to be ignoring us.
So, new plan - I'm putting my scarecrow back in the yard (she was inside that night, due to expected rain) and we're installing bright spotlights that will aid in video monitoring.  Enough fooling around.  The cages are working - I just need to know what she's doing.  Maybe "want to know" is a better description.
Sssssshhhhhhh, be very, very quiet, my lovely darlings, for ye know not what lurks beneath.  Or above.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Springin' to Life


It is April 12th and I estimate that my Purple Martin Colony is now almost 1/2 full.  Last year at this same time, I had around 120 - 140 birds, but right now I have about 35 pairs (60+ birds).  But, it's not even half-time in Missouri yet!  The adults are still arriving and I have not spotted a sub-adult thus far.  In fact, if you're a new landlord in Missouri waiting for your first arrival this year, you still have plenty of time.  From my records, I can tell you that I've seen sub-adults arriving through the first week of June, so don't give up.  They seemed to arrive a little slower this year and I've actually been happy with that.


It is quite fun to watch the males fall all over themselves when they finally get a beautiful female to land and investigate the perfect home he has chosen for her.  It is truly giggle-inducing.  In his giddiness, his feet barely touch the porch  as he tumbles into the gourd, screeching to her from inside about his own wicked awesomeness in finding *THE* one.   It is quite hilarious when she takes off and he's still inside squawking away about where to setup her perfect nest and the couch.  Moments later, he will realize she has left and will poke his head out.  Lord knows what he's thinking when he finds her gone...after all that effort!
The females, on the other hand, seem to be quite in control and play the 'hard-to-get' part very well, sometimes acting completely uninterested.
Pick me, pick me, PUHLEESE PICK ME!
In the end, she lets him think he's in charge.  But we know who really is controlling their future here. :)

So far, my Great Horned Owl has not made an appearance and we are very happy about that.  I'll keep monitoring throughout the year, but we're pretty well protected now.  And when I say "we", I mean my martins and me.  I'm including Me - for my sanity and my love for my sleep.  The last 4 days have been very loud with the new arrivals.  Their raucous greetings, "Hey, how are ya?", and "HEY, I missed ya!" reverberate off the surrounding hills and my back porch and energize me every morning.
The landscape seemed so gloomy up until about a week ago.  But it has warmed up considerably and the martins are taking advantage by storming the racks and setting up territory.


Everywhere I look things are bloomin'.  It's amazing how much life springs forth with just a few days of warm weather.
Wild plum - one of the first native plants to bloom here in the spring.

I am so happy I decided to put out my mason bees last weekend.  While I haven't found one in the plum groves yet, I have been finding their empty cocoons.  And while my sinuses are not enjoying it, the honey bees are really digging all the pollen too!

Plum blooms and honey bees

Now we know where the idiom, "busy as a bee" comes from.


I don't have any idea what this flower is, but it's blooming too!

The Speckled Kingsnakes are on the move too.  This beauty decided that she wanted to take a shortcut across my driveway, through my lavender flower beds and across the yard to get to her old hunting grounds under my Butterfly bushes.
My Speckled Kingsnake decided she wanted to take advantage of the warm sun and move back to her old hunting grounds, under my Butterfly bushes, across the yard.  I let her pass unmolested - she will eat many mice, moles and other rodents which I don't want around.  Just keep movin' Missy - I should paint, "You SHALL NOT pass" on all my predator guards on my martin poles, just as a friendly reminder.  I've never seen her attempt it, but I'm sure a hungry one would.  Isn't she beautiful?
Dandelions
Even the Dandelions are beneficial to the bees this time of year.  I used to fight the war with them every year, until I realized their many benefits.  Now, we have an easy truce and I see their very fine flower petals everywhere and enjoy their lemony yellow, happy color scattered throughout the landscape.  How could I have ever believed these were bad plants??
Tree swallow pairing is in full swing. 
Tree swallows (TRES) are pairing up and in full battle mode, determined to take not only the boxes I dedicated to them (with the TRES slots), but also the blue bird boxes that I left with the 1.5" holes.  It is all-out war here between the two - may the best men / women win, because there's not much I can do to intervene.  The TRES are ferocious, but then again, they haven't met a truly agitated pair of Missouri bluebirds either.
These 2 pairs usually face off with Nikki and me as we walk past on our daily walks.  I think they would really like to pluck some of Nikki's fur for their nests.  It would probably help with her grooming.
Oh, how I love the sights and sounds of spring moving into summer!  It's energizing and fun to watch everyone get so busy.
I'll be hosting "Purple Martins and Coffee" again this year - 3rd Saturday of each month from 9 AM to 12 PM.  I hope to see some fellow Missourians then - and maybe we can do a 'walkabout', if you like!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Have Bunny Mail

"I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
--Missouri's U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver - 1899
Missouri's unofficial state slogan is "Show Me" and regardless of how it originated, it is now used to indicate the stalwart, noncredulous character of Missourians.  Since 2010, I have been sending out a newsletter and publishing newspaper articles on purple martins in order to meet Missouri landlords.  I have participated in multiple purple martin forums and seen many of those come and go along the way.  I've seen all types of people on this journey; there are the "keyboard warriors" who are really only interested in sitting behind a keyboard and offering their sage advice to anyone they can get to listen, but they never really "show me" anything.  Others are only interested in sharing their pictures and talking about themselves, never really showing me anything either.  Then there are those who do, much to my delight, really "show me".
One of the first landlords with whom I first made contact in late 2011 when he subscribed to my newsletter was Jerry, located in Troy, MO, approximately 150 miles north east of my location.
How Jerry found out about me, I don't even recall - we've never even met; but he has been in regular contact since that time, letting me know how his colony is growing, issues he's dealing with and his nest check and fledge results. 
In 2011, he had 26 pair and after losing ~20 birds to a Great Horned Owl, he added the red flashing NiteGuard lights to the top of his rack to try to deter it, along with individual owl guards for his gourds.
Jerry's gourd racks.  The GHO just laughed at his red blinky lights.


The lights didn't help with his issues but the wire owl guards did, losing only one to an owl in 2012.  Even with the continued owl problems, his colony continued to grow and he reported 38 nesting pair in 2012, with 116 fledged.
In July 2013, I received an email from Jerry with the subject line, "You Have Mail - Bunny".  My curiosity piqued, I opened it and spewed my coffee on my monitor.  Jerry's owl had paid his site another visit and left him a present (and maybe a message?) on his starling trap.  Who knew that an owl could be so vindictive?
Jerry said, "This is exactly how it was found.  HONEST."
Jerry offered 48 gourds and hosted 36 pair with 153 fledged in 2013 and last year, in 2014, with his colony hitting its stride at 8 years old, Jerry decided to do something unselfish and extraordinary.  He decided to help his neighbor, who lives 1/4 mile away, attract purple martins.  Jerry had sold Bruce his smaller gourd rack, but Bruce was not having any luck with attracting his own martins.  Jerry decided it was time to take some drastic measures to help Bruce start a purple martin colony. 
Jerry started out the 2014 season by only opening 16 gourds at his colony.  As the number of martins grew, so did the fighting.  This was prime real estate and the older adults knew it!  After 2 weeks Jerry was ready to throw in the towel, but he was willing to go one more week.  Finally, before Jerry had to resort to anxiety medication, Bruce reported by 4/22 that he had 7 martins staying at his site.
Jerry happily threw open the doors, offering 48 gourds total.  He finished the year with 40 pair, 174 fledged and lost 4 fledges to his GHO.
And his neighbor?  Bruce ended the year with 8 pair.  How cool is that?
Both Bruce and Jerry are gearing up for a purple martin palooza this year.  They have have each now installed a Super System 24 in their backyards, with Jerry offering 72 gourds and Bruce offering 36 gourds in 2015.
These type of people - these fellow Missourians truly step up to the plate and show me.  I am so proud to live in a state where they don't just talk the talk - they walk the walk.
Fellow Missourians - showing and leading the way for the future of purple martins - you make me proud to be a part of it.  Thank you, Jerry and Bruce - best of luck to you both this year!  Jerry, I look forward to more "Bunny" mail from you.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.
--Orison Swett Marden

Monday, January 19, 2015

The FOB - Part 3

When the weather warms, so do I.  With outside temperatures reaching 60 degrees this past weekend, I came down with "I-must-get-outside" fever and I finally put the finishing touches on my owl cage.  I am feeling so much better about this upcoming purple martin season, but I think I will refrain from my usual taunts that tempt fate such as, "Bring it on, Mr. Menacing-Evil-Martin-Eater".  You know, just in case he does decide to bring it on.  And something really bad happens.  So, I'll just nicely say, "please don't bring it on".
At a minimum, I know I have made it more difficult for him to easily access my systems and prevented him from playing volleyball with my gourds.  Hopefully, that will encourage him to hunt elsewhere.  Time will tell.
Altogether, I estimate we have added less than 30 pounds of hardware; that includes the fencing, the aluminum brackets that extend out over the corners, the cross brackets to support the top, and the entrance hole covers.
My plan right now is to lower the cage and maneuver inside for nest checks.  If that isn't realistic, I may have to cut off a foot of the vertical wire so I can more easily slide in & out of each section.
The cage will ride up and down with the system.  For now, I have left the full 4' of length on each side, but if maneuvering in and out becomes a problem, I may cut off at least 1' from the bottom. From this angle, you can see the brackets that span from corner to corner, providing both support and a place to anchor the top wire to keep it from flopping in the wind.
There are ten 4"x4" entrances cut out on each side and have undersill trim has been placed on the bottom of each entrance to cover up the sharp nibbins left by the wire cutters.
If you're interested in reading more details about the construction of the cage, you can go to these two posts:
The FOB - Part 1: http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-freeze-owl-block-fob.html
The FOB - Part 2: http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-fob-part-2.html
Current migration status shows that the purple martins are on their way with a report showing one in Saint Amant, LA.  Track their migration here on the PMCA site: http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monitoring Your Purple Martin Colony With Game Cameras - A Browning Trail Camera Review

Last year I learned a hard lesson.  Never say, "never" when it comes to owls, snakes, racoons, and other predators that could prey on your purple martins.  Never.  As I learned, you don't really know what's going on with your purple martin colony unless you are either sitting outside all night or you have positioned multiple game cameras around your site.  If you ignore the possibility, then you could end up with lots of dead martins and even lose your entire colony.
Sitting in my yard all night was just not realistic for me, so I chose the latter option.   I quickly shopped for game cameras after noticing that my Trendsetter was not filling up like it had in years past and finding a GHO feather in my driveway escalated my sense of urgency.  After reading the reviews for multiple brands and shootout results (good site to see all trail camera reviews here), I decided to try out a Browning Trail Camera - Recon Force XR Series (BTC-2XR).  It has some nice features, including long detection range and the ability to record video.
My purple martin gourd rack - 7-2-2014- 8:20 PM.

My first impression when I opened the box is that the camera is small and compact and the casing has a high-quality, heavy duty plastic feel.  My second impression was, "whoa - this takes a LOT (8) of batteries!".
The Recon Trail Camera User Interface
After loading it with batteries and an SD card, I was able to poke around the very user-friendly buttons and quickly setup the date and time.  I had read about all the features while shopping, but I hadn't realized there were features within features.  Read on to see what features I find most attractive in this game camera.
Features
The camera has 4 capture modes: Trail Cam, TimeLapse, TimeLapse+ and Video Mode.
...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Recovery of E049

While doing the fall cleanup on the east side of the house today, something glinted at me from the rock garden. Earlier this summer, Bob had found an owl pellet just below our deck railing and had laid it on the rocks for me to take a look at later.  I had forgotten about it.  Until today.  Something shiny drew my attention back to it and my heart sank as I knelt to investigate.
I had been meaning to pull it apart, but with all the issues I had this summer, I couldn't bear to do it, fearing I would confirm what I dreaded most.  But nature has a funny way of exposing herself sometimes.  The rain did for me what I was unable to do and lying there in the owl poo was a little silver band, demanding my attention.

Federal Band # 2501-29649 recovered from the owl pellet
As I pulled the pellet apart, I noticed the tiny white bones in the mix.  I read the Federal Band number: 2501-29649.  This Second-Year (SY) male was born here at my site on June 13, 2013 in Troyer Gourd #35.  He was banded on 6/24/2013 at 21 days old.  He was resighted here on May 4, 2014 and was courting an SY Female in a Troyer vertical gourd on a different rack from the one in which he was born.  I have no further records where I spotted him this year, so I have no idea at what point he became a meal.

As I poked through the pieces, I knew it was inevitable that I would find the yellow band but its appearance still broke my heart.  His Missouri Band number was E049.
To think, this guy flew all the way to Brazil and back during the fall & winter of 2013-2014, only to arrive at my site and die as a meal to a GHO.  It makes me sad.

I am so grateful that I have always spent a lot of time out with my martins and could detect when something was wrong.  Even happier that I followed my instincts when I knew something was wrong.  Otherwise, the damage may have been a lot worse.  It doesn't make it any better for E049, but it did for the rest of my colony.
I am so grateful that my martins headed back to Brazil in mid-July as this year was exhausting and stressful.  I haven't been around my gourd racks yet, except to lower them for a storm.  Soon, when the weather cools, I'll be taking measurements so that I can start putting our planned design together for the owl protection that we will need for next year.
I know the owl has to eat too, but he really could go catch some of the annoying and very large moles we have here.  They would certainly make a heartier meal for him.  Have you seen our Missouri moles?  Perhaps I should put some bells on the moles that I catch so that they can keep my owl distracted next year.  Bad, old owl.