Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

October 2015

Vol. 43, No. 5

Barred Owl Adventures in Hampstead

Alfred Maley


Barred Owlets (All photographs by the author.)

Field of Dreams

Twenty-five years ago I put up a Barred Owl nest box on our one-acre lot in Hampstead, New Hampshire, because I had heard owls in the forest behind the house and I am an optimist. Alas, Hampstead proved to be a desirable location for people. The forest was subdivided, followed by high-grade lumber harvest, lot clearing, road building, and 22 new houses on 2–10 acre lots. Towhees began to nest.

Plan B

Undeterred, I looked to the conservation lands—which I was steadily accumulating when I was chairman of the conservation commission—especially along nearby Darby Brook. The original nest box design was structurally weak and very heavy, but I improved it and added a ceiling mirror so the contents would be visible from the ground. Soon I had three boxes erected and occupied, closer together than I thought was possible, and I placed additional boxes, also close together, on the Main Street conservation lands. By the spring of 2013, there were five occupied nest boxes, each kicking out two owlets year after year. No box, once occupied, ever became unoccupied. That was probably due to proper design and construction and a raccoon guard.

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