A Note from Rachel: Owl Boxes

Owl Box in the summer

Owl Box in the summer

Dear CSA Members,

Over the last few months, I have been walking through our young orchards, row by row, counting trees that didn’t make it, creating a list for winter tree replacement orders. In these young orchards, as well as in the old, we have owl boxes scattered throughout- about 1 box per 5 acres. These boxes are mounted on 20 ft. long poles and peak out beyond our trees. They are here to encourage barn owls to move in, who predate on our most destructive pest in the orchard - gophers! Gophers burrow under young trees, feeding on their roots and killing the trees from bottom-up. 

As I walk the rows, counting dead trees, I also stop at each owl box to inspect it for signs of inhabitance. Because barn owls are nocturnal, we rarely see them during the day here (with the exception of Farmer Al, who rises early and watches them in the sky at dawn), making them mysterious and intriguing. Inspecting the boxes gives us a glimpse of what’s going on here at night.

If you walk by the owl boxes at a normal pace, you might not notice anything… However, if you stop to take a closer look at the soil beneath, you’ll probably notice little gray clods of fur with tiny white bones sticking out. These are owl pellets- essentially the remains of an owl’s gopher meal. Pellets under the boxes indicate that owls are nesting here and doing their job. So far, almost all the boxes I’ve checked are being lived in. Thank you, owls!