Thursday, November 12, 2015

Build a nest box, here's proof that they work!

Guest post by Mary Graf, Photographs by Mary and Chuck Graf

Few things are more rewarding than attracting wildlife into urban landscapes, and becoming the permanent residence of a special bird is a bonus! Providing shelter, water and food generally garners the 'usual suspects', but with some extra effort, the possibility to attract a unique resident increases.

Tucson Audubon is hosting a "Build Your Own Nest Box" workshop on November 14 and again on December 12, aimed at cavity nesters in the Tucson area. Lucy's Warblers, flycatchers and screech-owls would be the beneficiaries, and I can attest that providing a nest box WILL work!

"Screechy" surveying his domain on Tucson's west side in November.

Since our move into the Agua Dulce/Sweetwater in the Foothills neighborhood in the Tucson Foothills in April, an almost daily visitor has made his presence known.

We watched the nest box carefully, hoping to see the Western Screech-owl we'd been told was a frequent resident. Soon enough, he showed himself. . . . not in the nest box high in a mesquite, but on a rafter on our patio, leaving a headless mouse on the patio floor like a gift from an avian welcoming committee.

The late spring and early summer days found him in and out of the nest box. Many days I spied him sleeping in a shady and cool bush, which was perfectly located so I could watch him from my kitchen window. Late afternoons he'd usually relocate to the nest box, swooping out of it at dusk to go about his nocturnal affairs.

Hiding from the August heat on a shady perch.

The owl was joined by many other birds, as well as frequent coyotes, a javelina pack of 7, and a bobcat (all captured on a hidden motion detector camera by our front gate).

Our desert community proved to be a real haven to wildlife, winged and otherwise. The Sweetwater in the Foothills community was recently re-certified by the National Wildlife Federation as an official Community Wildlife Habitat®, going through a rigorous certification process to attain that designation, which it has held since 2007. (And one of only 2 communities in Arizona so recognized.) This program developed from the NWF's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program, which has allowed individual households to register their backyards as wildlife habitats since 1973. Now expanded to the community level, NWF recognizes communities and neighborhoods that keep natural native areas and landscape with native plants in a way that offers local wildlife food, shelter, water and a place to raise young. As with the Tucson Audubon's Bringing Birds Home program, creating wildlife friendly habitat has proved especially fortuitous for the birds of our area, as residents have added plants and water features sure to attract and keep the flyers frequent.

Hoping that our solo owl would find a mate, we've continued to watch and listen, and one summer midnight heard the bouncing ball back and forth between our resident and another screech-owl.

So far we still have a solo resident, but with plans to build another nest box at an upcoming Tucson Audubon workshop, perhaps the addition of another nest site will encourage the midnight hooters to start a brood in 2016!

Build Your Own Nest Box

Build a nest box for backyard birds in this Tucson Audubon workshop. After a brief orientation to cavity-nesting birds in Tucson, you will build a nest box as an individual or a team using a kit supplied by Tucson Audubon. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to help you. You can take your box home with advice on where to put it. Cost depends on the kind of nest box you build, due to the different sizes of the kits.
  • Lucy's Warbler (small box): $20 (members) $25 (non-members)
  • Flycatcher (medium box): $25 (members) $30 (non-members)
  • Screech-Owl (large box): $30 (members) $35 (non-members)
Saturday, November 14, 2015, 9:00 – 11:00 am

University Blvd Nature Shop, in the Historic YWCA courtyard

Register for November 14

Saturday December 12, 2015, 9:00 – 11:00 am

Tucson Audubon's Mason Center
Register for December 12

For more information, contact Kendall Kroesen, (520) 209-1806.