December 13, 2017

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Building a Barred Owl Nest Box

A few weeks back I had been searching the web for floor plans for a Barred Owl nest box. I had quite a bit of material sitting around, leftover from various construction jobs.  I figured I would incorporate several of the ideas I read and have a go at building my own owl nest box. The end result??   they came out pretty nice and if I was a Barred Owl I’d be staking one of them out right now to get out of this snowstorm. Most of the plans your going to find are for 3/4 inch plywood and I made the following plans to those specs. You’ll want to use treated plywood if your not going to weatherproof it.  Here is a list of the materials you’ll need to make your own owl nest box.

  • 1/2 sheet 4′ x 4′   3/4″ plywood (pressure treated if desired)
  • exterior wood glue
  • 1  5/8 ths exterior wood screws
  • 2 – 4 inch by 1/4 inch all thread bolts (to connect perch to nest box)
  • several 1/4 inch nuts, washers and lock washers
  • 2 – 6 inch long by 1 1/2 or 2 inch wide framing connectors (to attach nest box to tree)
  • 6 – 1 1/4 inch long bolts to attach framing connectors to box
  • 1 small bag of wood chips

You will also need the following tools, jigsaw, circular saw, and drill.  If you have a table saw it’s much easier and neater to cut your panels with that. A slide miter saw while not mandatory certainly does make cutting the panels, especially the two sides with the roof pitch an easier job. Once you have all your tools and materials together you’ll want to cut out the following pieces.

You’ll need to cut two front panels exactly the same, one of them  will become the back of the nest box. The only difference in the two is the back panel will not have the hole in it. To cut the hole for your front panel measure up from the bottom of the piece 12 inches and square a line across this mark. Measure up 7 inches from your mark and square another line across your piece of wood.  Now find the center of the panel, it should be  6 7/8ths inches from each edge.  Mark a center line up your panel  and measure outward on both side 3 1/2 inches and mark each location. You should now have a 7″ x 7″ square laid out for the entrance.  Now take a compass and make a 3 1/2 inch radius from your highest mark (approx 19 inches from the bottom edge) out to the side marks you just laid out. You should now have the top of your entrance arched. If you don’t have a compass you can use a small jar or anything that’s round about 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

On the inside of the front panel you need to make a ladder or toe holds for the young owls (owlets) to climb. You can do this either by cutting thin strips of wood and gluing them on you can make kerf marks (saw cuts) across the panel every 1/4. Start the kerfs from the bottom of the panel up to the bottom of the door way. You can see in the image on the right that I chose to glue on small strips and since I have it I also used a brad nailer to secure the strips even further while the glue dried.

For the drainage and added air circulation cut the 4 corners back slightly on the bottom 12 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ panel.  The miter saw is perfect for this task.  Pay special attention to the fact that one side panel is 1 inch longer than the other, this gives you the pitch for the roof.  You don’t have to pitch the roof but your box will stay in much better shape over the years if it can shed water.  Please note that if your going to use 5/8 or 1/2 inch plywood you’ll need to adjust the front and back panel widths accordingly.  You can also add extra air vents by drilling 2 half inch holes near the top of each side panel.

Once all the pieces of your Barred Owl nest box are cut your ready for assembly. I prefer to glue all my joints, use a good exterior wood glue and smear it on one edge of each joint. Assemble the base to the two side panels first, make sure all edges are flush and screw with 1 5/8 exterior screws. You may want to pre-drill your holes as it makes screwing the pieces together a little easier. Next you’ll want to attach the front and back panels.  The front and back panels overlap the sides which is why we assmbled those first. Again, glue all edges, flush the pieces together and connect with screws.  Attach the roof panel last, make sure you leave the edge of the roof panel flush to the side of the box your going to connect to the tree with. Make sure there are no nails or screws protruding into the inside of the box that will injure the owls. If any sharp points are protruding back out the screws and start a new straighter screw.

Once your nest box is together you can then attach a perch just under the entrance. Find a good solid branch about 2 inches in diameter and cut it several inches longer than the width of the box. The mother and owlets will use perch extensively as they grow.  To connect the branch to the box lay it on the box about 3 inches below the entrance and drill a hole all the way through the branch and box at each end. Set the branch aside.  Place the head of your bolt on the inside of the box, slide a lock washer and nut over the bolt and tighten. Thread a second nut with lock washer on the bolt and stop about 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the face of the box. Slide the branch over the bolts and down to the nuts you just threaded on. Secure the brach in place with another set of lock washers and nut and tighten.  You should now have a nice secure perch with a little space between it and the nest box. If your bolts are still projecting out from the branch cut off the excess with a grinder or hacksaw and file off any sharp edges.

You can go the extra mile as I did and use cedar shingles to cover the plywood. I only did this because I used interior grade plywood but it looks a lot nicer in the end. I glued all the shakes in place and attached them with a small brad nailer. I could have went even further and made the box more weather tight by  covering the outside of the box with Ice & Water Barrier before attaching the the shakes but that was an after thought. If you choose to stain your box do so with a water based, non toxic stain. I actually preferred not to use treated plywood just because of all the chemical additives in it. Your last step is to attach the strapping or framing connectors to the box with bolts. Again place the head of the bolt inside the box. Secure the flat framing connectors, one protruding from the top and one protruding from the bottom with nuts and lock washers. Some sites may show a chain or cable to attach the nest box but over time this method will do more damage to the tree once it grows than simply nailing or screwing in the framing connectors.

Hanging Your Barred Owl Box

Your going to want hang your Barred Owl box  between 15 to 20 feet off the ground on a mature tree that is at least 12 inches in diameter. You’ll want to be able to access it in the future to remove any unwanted debris or animals out of it like squirrels.  Barred Owls prefer to nest in lowland mature forest areas.  You should take care to hang the nest box within 300 feet of a water source, pond, stream, lake or river. The further you place the box from human activity the better your chances of having an owl use it, it should be no closer than 150 feet. Try to avoid placing the box in direct sunlight so it doesn’t overheat inside. Attaching the box on the west or north side of the tree is preferred.

Hanging the box is definitely a two person job as the boxes are too  heavy and bulky for one person on a ladder.  I build for a living, am  6′ 1′, 210 pounds and pretty adept on ladders and I still needed a helper.  You’ll definitely need some rope here. Tie a slip knot or carabiner on one end of the rope, wrap the rope around the box under the roof and feed it through the knot or carabiner. Throw the other end of the rope over a higher branch. The ground man can now hoist the box up into place while the guy on the ladder attaches it to the tree. You can either choose to have the entrance facing directly away from the tree or turn the nest box so it faces the side of the tree. The later method will allow for easier access in the future to clean out the box if necessary. The last and final thing you need to do is place a couple inches of wood chips in the bottom of the box. The wood chips cushion the eggs and keep them in place. Owls don’t gather nesting material so placing the wood chips in the bottom of the box is a must.

Barred Owls  will often use the same nest site year after year. Adult Barred Owls will mate for life and only replace their mate if the other dies. They start looking for a suitable nest  in early winter and usually lay their eggs in the later winter months or early April. The female will lay between 2 to 4 eggs that will hatch about 4 weeks later.  As soon as the owlets can fly they leave the nest and set off on their own.

You shouldn’t have to disturb the area to check on whether there is a pair of owls using the nest box. Barred Owls are very vocal and you should be able to hear their distinctive call “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” if they are in the area. If you hear their calls coming from the direction of where you placed the box sneak in and take a peak, don’t forget the camera. Just remember not to disturb them to often as they may abandon their nest.

With any luck we’ll have a pair of Barred Owls using the nest boxes we put out, we’ll be sure to share the pics right here if we do.

 

Have fun and enjoy Nature!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowshoe Hare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observing the Woolly Bear

Just about everyone knows what a Woolly Bear Caterpillar, Pyrrharctia isabella looks like but very few know the later stages of the Woolly Bears life.  Over the next several months you can join us here at MyNatureApps.com as we follow Wizard our captive Woolly Bear Caterpillar. We’ll be watching Wizard as he makes his change from a caterpillar into an Isabella Tiger Moth. 

If you find a Woolly Bear and bring him in the house STOP and read this first before you  do anything else!  click here

 

If you would like to watch the transformation from caterpillar into moth first hand the first thing you’ll need to do is find a Woolly Bear. Fortunately that’s the easy part. Woolly bears are easily found in the fall months seeking out shelter to hibernate in or under. Look outside under lawn furniture, leaves, logs and rocks, your sure to find one.

Keeping a Woolly Bear captive for observation is fairly easy. You only need to gather a few things first.

  • The first you’ll need is a container which can be as simple as a plastic cup to the something the size of a small aquarium. We are using a clear plastic pot liner.
  • Cover the bottom of the container with  a little soil. Use soil from the area you found the caterpillar in. Place from 1/2 inch to 1 inch of soil in the bottom of your container.
  • Collect some grass and line the top of the soil with it.
  • Gather  leaves from the area you found the Woolly Bear in. Woolly Bears use  leaves for food, you’ll want to gather a variety of the leaves in the immediate area. Place 2 to 3 leaves in the container.
  • Put extra leaves in a plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator. Use these leaves to replace the leaves in the container as needed.
  • Place a few sticks inside the container for the Woolly Bear to climb on and to hide under as well.
  • Place a lid over the container with holes poked through so the Woolly Bear can get air but not escape.
  • Using a spray bottle mist the sides of the container and the surface of the leaves every three days. A few sprays is all you’ll need.
  • Place the container with your Woolly Bear outside somewhere safe where you can check on him regularly. You won’t need to  worry about fresh leaves and misting the surface once the weather is near or below freezing your Woolly Bear will be hibernating at this time.

Woolly Bears nearly freeze solid during hibernation. Their body produces a chemical called a cryoprotectant that acts like an anti freeze which protects their organs and body tissues from being damaged from freezing.  Once spring arrives and the outdoor temperatures begin to warm to the high 40’s and 50’s the caterpillar thaws out and becomes active again.  You’ll have to supply it with fresh food again at this point. Find some green leaves, dandelion leaves are great and are some of the first green leaves to show up in the Spring.

The Woolly Bear will soon spin a cocoon and pupate eventually emerging as an  adult Tiger Moth. When the caterpillar emerges as an adult it will have a short life span where it will need to find a mate and lay it’s eggs to complete the life cycle. The adult moth will only live for one to two weeks. They have no mouth parts so they essentially starve to death.

Once the Woolly Bear has made its cocoon you’ll want to place a the whole container with the top removed in a screened in area, this way you will be able to view the Tiger Moth without disturbing it. You can fabricate a small screen enclosure out of old screen windows or just pick up a few feet at the local hardware store.  You don’t need a huge screened area, a small roughly built 12 inch by 12 inch cage is plenty big enough.

After the Tiger Moth has emerged and you have been able to view him for a little while it’s important that you set him free so he can find a mate and fulfill the purpose of his life.  Simply bring the whole enclosure outside and remove the top and he’ll eventually fly awayOnce he finally takes off give yourself a big pat  on the back because over the past several months you witnessed one of the true miracles of Nature.  Enjoy!!

A little later in the year we’ll do an update on Wizard to let you know how he’s progressing and we’ll do a little folklore on the Woolly Bear.

 

 

3~31~13
Update
 

Ahhhhh….. Spring has finally decided to stop in for a visit, I certainly hope it stays. Yesterday was the first big melt and we still have about 2 feet of snow left to disappear. After 6 months of winter it can’t go away soon enough for me. The warm air jarred my memory that Wizard would be waking up soon from his deep sleep. A quick check in the shed and I found him nestled down in the soil under a maple leaf in the enclosure we made him last Fall.  IMG_0451I spent about 3 minutes yesterday making a new enclosure so we can witness the final miracle in Wizards life.

Nothing special really just some 2×2’s naiiled up to make a frame to hold some screen in place. Once Wizard completes his morph into a Tiger Moth we’ll snap a couple pictures and set him free to find a mate and complete his lifes mission.

 

 

 

4~16~13

A quick check on Wizard this evening revealed that he had spun his cocoon and was partially attached to the side of the container and a wilted dandelion leaf.  We had been placing fresh leaves in his enclosure everyday in case he decided to have a healthy snack. The last I looked in on him was the night of the 14th and he was still moving around. That means that IMG_0937sometime between the night of the 14th and this afternoon which is the 16th Wizard moved closer to the last stage of his life.  The image on the right is a perfect example of what a Woolly Bears cocoon looks like. If you look closely you’ll notice they even use their own hair to make their cocoon.

Wizard should be emerging from his cocoon sometime between 10 to 15 days from now.  I can’t wait to see him morphed into his new body and eventually fly away. 

Stay tuned there’s definitely more to come!

 

 


click here

Read the following before attempting to raise a Woolly Bear

Do Not try to keep a Woolly Bear caterpillar in your house because you think it’s to cold out. Your disrupting Nature and interfering with the natural life cycle of the caterpillar.  Woolly Bears are designed to withstand the coldest winter. They produce their own antifreeze and nothing will happen to them if left outdoors. You may have good intentions but you are NOT HELPING the caterpillar at all and in fact you may be KILLING IT!

If you plan on capturing and keeping a Woolly Bear captive for the winter then follow these suggestions.

  • Place the caterpillar in a container with twigs, soil and leaves (dried leaves to hide under)
  • Place the container outdoors, NOT inside your house. Place it somewhere safe like inside a shed or screened porch. Keep it out of the direct sunlight so it does not warm up and prematurely arouse the hibernating caterpillar.
  • If the caterpillar is still active you MUST supply it with fresh green leaves daily to eat.  Dandelion leaves are fine as are clover and fresh grass. Replace the leaves daily until the caterpillar hibernates. Once it awakens in the Spring you must supply fresh food again on a daily basis until it spins its cocoon.
  • Misting the container occasionally stops it from becoming to dry. Think of what happens outdoors. It rains, it snows, it’s humid. An occasional mist while it hibernates will not hurt it. Just do not saturate the container in water.
  • Woolly Bears are most active and night and sleep during the day.  It doesn’t mean it’s dead if it doesn’t move.
  • Once it spins its cocoon it may take from 1 to 3 weeks to emerge as a Tiger Moth.
  • Some Woolly Bears may spin their cocoon and remain inside that over the winter.
  • Remove any droppings that start to build up in the container while the caterpillar is active.
  • You must let the adult moth go free outdoors to complete its life cycle. It will find a mate, lay eggs and  die.

And finally worth repeating, Do not keep a Woolly Bear you found in the Fall inside your house because you think your helping it from the cold, you’re not!  It belongs outdoors where it’s cold. These creatures have survived millions of years without your warm house to save them. It’s a good practice to observe Nature but not interfere with it. 

A Day in a Tree

I’ve been here before, many times in fact
somewhere right here, is my tree
it’s been a few years and my memory has faded
 
with a shrug and a geezzzz…… “there it is”  whisper, I feel embarrassed   
an experience only someone who sits in trees can relate
 
it looks as sound as the day I built it
and I build up a sweat climbing the 15 feet with my pack, camera,tripod and rifle slung over my shoulder
 
the view is the same
Spectacular!
North up the beaver meadow 300 yards
South behind me one hundred
game trails crossing from East to West
a trickle of a stream flows by me
what once was a pond long and narrow
 
A neighboring Balsam has crowded my  perch
with the few small branches I break, the most pleasant  aroma engulphs my watch
sense of smell is one of the greater gifts I enjoy.
 
I’ve yet to see a deer from here
but it doesn’t really matter
the view, the creek, chickadees and squirrels
they all keep me entertained
 
hunting is much more than taking a deer
it’s the solitude
the peace, the calm, the wind, the smell
the outdoors
 
if a successful hunt is measured in meat and antlers
I have failed miserably
yet….. I have more trophy’s than any man I know
for each day outdoors is an adventure to me
and every  adventure is my trophy
 
 
 
 

Biomass Direct and Fisher Stoves, Buyer Beware!!

 

12/15/2013 Update

Through one of the comments left this past week it seems that Larry Boyd of Fisher Stoves/Biomass Direct has just closed his website down. We can only hope he’s out of business for good but I highly doubt it. If anyone has any first hand knowledge of any new website or business that Mr. Boyd may start  anew please let me know so I can update this post. We’ve saved quite a few people from this shyster and I would like to continue to do so.

So why should you BEWARE of Biomass Direct LLC ?  Well,….. as they operated Timber Ridge they promised you a 20 year warranty. That’s what attracted me to their company in the first place. What I didn’t know was that they do this on a regular basis. It seems anyone in Tennessee can start a company, promise the world and then declare bankruptcy to avoid any responsibility for the products they sell and then turn right around under a new name and sell the exact same product. I’m out over $10,000.00 on a boiler because they continually produce and sell a substandard product under multiple business names all with the  protection of the Tennessee Consumer Affairs Bureau.  Why with their protection?  Well after alerting them to this issue they said there is nothing they can do. Imagine that, they can’t do anything about a company that scams consumers, declares bankruptcy to void their warranties, starts a new business and sells the same product in a different package.  What are they there for?  Believe me when the warranty issues start to arise in a few more years with the Biomass Direct or Fisher Stoves outdoor boilers, they will close up shop again and be protected from any responsibility and just start another company. You WILL have issues with any stove they sell you, it’s just a matter of when, not if!

Of course they will dispute this claim, they want your money after all…. this is what they do, they swindle people like you and me.  They’ll say I didn’t take care of it properly or burnt things other than wood, they’ll need to discredit this post. Don’t believe them!!

Save yourself a small fortune on a bad investment and look elsewhere. Make sure you check into any company that sells outdoor boilers and see how long they have been in business. If it’s only a few years stay away.  If they say they have sold units for years, ask to see a copy of their licence of incorporation or proof of DBA from a government office. Contact that states Consumer Affairs Bureau to see if they have had any complaints.

You can find a lot of interesting reading on the former Timber Ridge now Biomass Direct LLC with a simple Google search.  Here are a few links to some.

http://fahrner.us/blog-mind-of-alan/44-alan-reviews/138-free-heat-machine-29-gallons-5-moose   scroll down to the complaints

More complaints http://www.topix.com/forum/city/portage-wi/T52H4OD6QJ51B5HBK

Yet another  http://outdoorwoodfurnaceinfo.com/forum/index.php?topic=2052.0

There are more site to read and videos on Youtube to watch but I think you get the picture.

 

Above all else notice the guy in the video…. he is the same one in all the videos of Timber Ridge, Fisher Stoves and Biomass Direct,  Larry’s his name.  Ask yourself this one question if your still thinking of purchasing one of their boilers. Why would the same guy be in the videos of three different companies and one no longer exists?   If I can stop one person from giving Larry another dime on his crooked business practice with Biomass Direct and Fisher Stoves then I have accomplished way more than the Tennessee Consumer Affair Bureau has done or is willing to do.

And Larry if your reading this……  justice will find you one day, bank on it!!

If you were scammed by Larry Boyd dba  Timber Ridge please leave a comment we would love to hear from you as I’m sure a possible future customer of Biomass Direct would also.

 

Post Note: 2/24/2013

I have been getting quite a bit of feedback both here and on other forums on the net about Larry Boyd and his business practices.  I would roughly estimate that this post has stopped at least 5 sales of his outdoor boilers. Those 5 are only the ones I know of directly, hopefully we have stopped others as well that did not leave a comment or email me.  The fact that he is posting on other forums about what a great product he has means we are making a dent in his business and I couldn’t be happier. It’s to bad  Tennessee Consumer Affairs won’t step up to the plate and put him out of business.  If your still in doubt of buying one of these units please read the comments section below. If you have any information on another company name change Larry Boyd is operating please let me know so I can adjust the blog and search engine key words.   Good luck to all of you and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Mouse House?

With winter coming along I figured I would get a jump on cleaning out the nest boxes I built last spring. Since I was late building and hanging them I didn’t have any high hopes of attracting any nesting birds. Out of the 12 I put out  only 4 had evidence of nests in them, birds nests that is. There happened to be four other boxes that had mice take up residence and they didn’t look like they were leaving anytime soon.  To be totally honest, over all these years I had never cleaned out any of the old nest boxes I had around the property. Its not that I never wanted to, I just got busy every year and never got to it.  The first box  I got to had a little bit of Milkweed seeds in it.  Right away I knew a mouse had been in the box at one time. How did I know that? Well buy the time the Milkweed pods open up and release all their fluffy seeds the birds are well past nesting. The thing I didn’t know was that the mouse was still in there. Reaching in I pulled out a handful of cottony seeds and twigs which was fine it was just the mouse hanging by the tail that scared the hell out of me. I never liked mice!!

I do find it amazing how well the mice had insulated the boxes. There were literally thousands of fluffy milkweed seeds packed into the boxes. I have no clue what the r-value would be but it looked pretty cozy. I’m sure they could have survived the coldest Adirondack winter.  As a cold hearted landlord I did evict the first three rodents from their winter digs but I let the fourth one stay.  Why? I have no idea, I guess I figured it was useless to try and keep the boxes clean and empty until next Spring. If he’s still there come March when I make my rounds I guarantee he’ll be out on his a$$.  After all it’s a bluebird house not a mouse house.

 

Times of Me

So many times in life we’re caught up in ourselves.
There’s nothing more important than us
than our day
than our time
our money
our possesions.
 
Some have never felt humbled, never felt worthless, miniscule, irrelevant. 
They have never felt that they’re just……nothing!
Overshadowed by the natural world
the rising of the moon, the vastness of the ocean, the color of an autumn day
 
For some of us, the lucky ones
there are fleeting moments of uselessness interspersed between the times of Me
I long for those moments, dream of them, I crave them.
 
To be nothing is to feel everything.
I’ve had no greater moments of irrelativeness than simply standing in the dark woods with a billion stars overhead, watching one single snowflake float to the ground, hearing the first spring peepers on a foggy April night.  
 
When you stop to smell the roses, when you take that simple phrase to heart, when you realize the world goes on without you, without all of us
you’ll see the grandeur of it all,
you’ll be nothing, yet feel everything.
 
 
 
 

MyNature Tree App Update

Finally finished…… whew!!  that took along time, nearly a year. The good news though is the tree app had a major overhaul. What you’ll find in this new version.

  • We placed a quick search box on several different screens in the app. You can now search for any tree in the app in a matter of seconds.
  • There are an additional 25 species found in the app. Most of the species are from the Western part of the country.
  • We redesigned the main screen to be a little more user friendly.  Each section of the app is represented by its own icon, just select the appropriate icon and your on your way.
  • There is now a journal feature where you can keep all your field notes or a diary of your outside adventures. Save your text and photo entries.
  • We’ve also added a Life List where you can check off each species you’ve identified. You can add multiple entries for each species.
  • The question section of the app was tweaked just a little  for better navigation.

This new update brings out total species number to around 225 trees found  color, profile, range map and  illustrated drawing.

Enjoy, and remember………….. every day is Earth Day!!

 

 

 

Autumn Voice

they stood along the riverbank
a haphazard line with no formality
arms turned toward the sky
they offer their gifts to the Gods
gold, rubies, precious metals of bronze and copper
 
with each gust of wind their song of worship is heard
like a million applause it echoes through the gray autumn sky
far up into the mountains and back again
 
the Gods of Sun, of Rain and Wind have been kind
their congregation,
once a whole
one voice, one color …….. screams out, individually
 
each of the million before me preaching their own words, their own praise
each their own
and I notice every one
………….. every single one!
 
Their sermon of color
of beauty
of earth
of life
of seasons beginning and ending
I catch my breath
 
I sit
I watch
I listen
 
 
 
 
 

 

The Wind Blows

reds and yellows rustle in the breeze
dangling so brilliantly, daintly above me
the colorful landscape reflects in my eyes  
 
towering against the dull gray september sky
like a giant paintbrush waiting to swipe the canvas
the maple waits.
And then…. the east wind blows
leaf stalks that held so tight through so many winds bid farewell
 
the sky becomes a living watercolor, an abstract of nature
the most accomplished artist of them all.
and the winds die
colors flutter, twisting and turning, tumbling to the earth
the most perfect leaf lights on my shoulder, crimson red on all five lobes
I smell the fall, I smile
 
and the wind blows.