by cheri sabraw
I called Irv the other day.
Irv, we are being overrun with rodents! I know I was the Pied Piper of Mission San Jose High School, but the rats, mice, vols, and gophers have taken my reputation to a new high!
Irv, also known affectionately as the Bird Man of Sunol, constructed and installed our owl box four years ago. In return for his Four Seasons of owl boxes, Irv requested a good bottle of zinfandel, one that sold at least for $10.00.
Regular readers of this blog know that after three years of vacant housing, a delightful barn owl family inhabited the box in March of this year. Needless to say, few rats or mice are carrying on across the creek. Templeton and Ratatouille! Leave town.
On our side of the creek, a different story–one of Camus’ The Plague (without the plague)– is unfolding.
We have been Rat Zapping (aka electrocuting) rats the size of small loaves of bread in our attic, Dinah’s dog run, wood piles, our pump house and the upper garage. While trying to run his legal business, my husband is also serving as pest control agent. The animal control company that finally herded our bats off the property last year is booked up for weeks.
Ive called back.
Cheri, you are in luck. I made a perfect box for the Superintendent of the Sunol Regional Park and he refused it, so it is YOURS. When can I come up to inspect the old box, clean it out, and straighten it up? Irv generously offered on the telephone.
Gosh, Irv. Come as soon as you can. We need a new box in our lower meadow ASAP. But I do not know if the owls across the creek are out of their box.
Irv assured me they had probably left this late in the season.
Irv and Hizzoner pulled and pushed to straighten the owl box.
Then, they lowered it. Irv planned to install a pulley system and clean out the box. He can tell how many owl “clutches” have been using the box based on the depth of the owl poop.
As you can see, Irv is opening the trap door, ready to clean out the flooring.
Oh God, Irv mutters.
Hizzoner cradles one egg, two 2-day old owlets,and an egg whose inhabitant is trying to emerge.
I stifle any of my concerns and just keep photographing.
But then the BIG surprise. Out of the box flew the mother barn owl–out into the bright daylight and into the dark wood. It all happened too quickly for me to snap a picture.
Hizzoner cradles his new Grand Owlet in hopes that Irv would quickly install the new gadget.
Irv and Hizzoner stop for a little refreshment brought to the site by the photographer, still stressing about the little ones without their mother.
The new gizmo finally on, Irv demonstrates how it works. No more articulating arm to lower and raise the owl boxes.
Cheri, do you want a green or yellow PVC handle? Irv asks.
And yet, I fretted about the three babies and an egg most of the afternoon.
Would their mother come back after all the ruckus to her house? All the noise, the talk, the scrapping and drilling?
Irv figured that the last clutch was made up of five chicks and this one, four.
Cheri, thanks to you and your husband’s insistence on an owl box, the world has nine more barn owls. Take joy in that accomplishment.
My joy was complete when, after sitting in the darkening olive orchard later in the evening, waiting for owls to emerge from the forest, we were heartened to hear and see at least five owls circling the orchard, clicking and calling in a sound other-worldly. Almost like radar.
And then, by the light of the moon, the mother flew to her box.