Hi folks ,
I have written a time or two before and lurked a lot . Learned a bunch and was asked if I could send some pics of what I was doing . I have 4 acres down between Maricopa and Casa Grande a few of you might remember . My goal is someting of a cross between a wildlife garden and a batanical garden of mostly xeriscape ( not all ) type plants . I kind of regard my land in 3 or 4 areas . The area directly in front of the house is kind of a mix of things . To the east I will eventually have a somewhat large water feature where I will have water emerging from a large mound then meandering some 200 feet down a courseway trying to replicate a somewhat natural creek with a few small intermintent pools with a medium sized pond at the bottom . Eventually building a covered footbridge about halfway down the length of the creek . The east side which comprises about 2 acres also has in the back corner about 1/4 acre that I have set aside for native burrowing owls . I built a 8 cluster underground unit for them last year and had a pair move in and had some baby owls last spring . I have had a steady population of 5 of them and am in the middle of building another 8 cluster underground unit for them ( and hopefully more of them soon ) as I write this . Building such a nest nessatates digging a trench 4 to 4 1/2 feet deep some 18 feet long and then on the ends digging upward at a 45 degree angle approximately 7 to 8 feet out . Then installing 4 inch corragated tubing from 5 gallon plastic buckets that are placed upside down with a hole cut in them so as to place the tubing just inside the bucket . When done there will be a tunnel some 15 feet or so long tunnel for the owls to travel to the nest from the entrance at ground level . 8 of these will be placed in the ditch with 2 of the tubes coming up each ramp . The first pics will be of the new nest construction .
You can barely see one of the little guys almost in the center of this pic at the opening of the second pipe from the left . This years nest under construction is in the foreground , last years nest where he is occupying is in the center .
Great to hear from you Lonediver!! Glad to know things are going well. You are so lucky to have burrowing owls on your property. Besides being beautiful, and fun to watch, they also eat all sorts of bugs and rodents and sometimes even fruit, like from prickly pear. They are not as shy as some owls and since they are frequently out during the day, are easily watched. I was birding in the Litchfield area last weekend and we saw 6 burrowing owls in about a 1 mile stretch of road. They were so beautiful!
The water will be a great animal and bird attraction, so be sure to build a couple places where you can sit and enjoy the show.
Tell us more and of course, we love pictures! Do you have any pictures of the owls?
A pic from the other side , again if you look in the center of the pic just below the two white pipes laying horizontally on the ground . One of the owls is standing there glaring at me intruding on his privacy .
It looks light you are putting in tons of work for the little birds. It must be so great to get to watch them. It's nice to have people live with mother nature instead or distroying it.
The last two pics do have owls in the pics , you may need a magnifying glass to see them but they are in the pics . Seeing the burrowing owls here is a daily occurance with them in residence . As I said I built an 8 nest cluster last year finishing in January and trying to do the same this year . One thing I am doing differently this year is I am installing 2 inch pipes to the ground surface from each nest providing for the future where eventually the possibility of dropping a infra red camera down into the interior so as to watch the nestlings hopefully in future years . Maybe you would like to come watch/observe ?
You would probably like my place a lot is going on . It is young yet , you have to consider that I started from scratch 3 years ago from this coming may . So I am in may starting into my fourth year . Take a look at the pics following in this thread .
No , I do not own a nursery . It just looks that way , future hedge plants and others .
I am surrounding my workyard area with 4 different selections . One different for each side chosen for one being somewhat self limiting in size , drought tolerance and providing fodder for birds .
Green hopseed ( dodnea )
Japanese privet ( which is'nt doing too well , may try New mexico privet or sugarbush )
Something of a joke in my family is that I hunted for and planted dead trees with an aim of planting vines on them . Turning the dead trees into arbors for the birds . This one I planted yellow ond purple orchid vine on this year . I will allow the vines even after they have gone descidous to remain so next year will build on the last eventually building a massive cluster of vine for birds to nest in .
I have gone heavily into grasses having about 50 different varieties . Eventually creating lots of cover for ground nesting birds . Most of the grass beds started with 6 to 10 plants each . The effect in the fall when they are most in flower is quite dramatic with the wind . I prefer the larger varieties standing 4 plus feet tall . The Ravenna grass which can stand 10 feet plus is outstanding .
I have planted about 10 different species of yucca , I would like to obtain a number of different nolinas . Bakers seems to have a good selection unless you all can suggest where else I might find some different ones . Arizona cactus sales also had a few different nolinas .
Lyciums , wolfberry , graythorn , sand cherry , hackberry most of these I have planted multiples of . Sages , 10 or more different emus . About 160 trees and still going ironwood , a number of different mesquites , palo brea , blue palo verdes , mexican palo verde , smoke trees
I wish I had gotten pics when everything was green but march is coming and the plants will be getting bigger . I am looking forward to the trees maturing and maybe in 2 years or so hosting one of the swaps down here maybe . In the meantime any of you birdbrains who might like come to visit and play in my dirt are welcome .
Only one... Do you have a spare area where I can build my house? Just kidding. I enjoyed all the photos as you posted them. I think what you are doing for the environment and the wildlife is wonderful. I would love to be able to type in a post . . . "160 trees and still going". It will be interesting to chart the progress of your expansive wildlife refuge by keeping track of the many species of animals which will call your little bit of paradise home.
One downside is that I learned that apparently some developer owns the 80 acres across the street from me and possibly plans to put 250 houses on that 80 acres in possibly 3 to 5 years . I thought that I was out far enough that I would not see that kind of development that soon .
Maybe it is time for me to go Edward Abbey .Just call me hayduke . The other 5 parcels around me , only one is occupied and he just moved in last year . All the parcels except across the street are about 4 acres . The tough part of this circus that I started is that I have to haul my water . I have a 2100 gallon tank on a trailer which I have to fill twice to water this place one time . Thank god I managed to get most of my drip irrigation system installed . when I was still hand watering last year it was taking 35 or more hours a week to just water in the summer . Now I have planted more and can do the watering in about 12- 14 hours a week . 6 to 7 with a winter schedule .
I am in awe at your commitment to this, it really is a desert oasis you're building. I especially love the nests! I was at Gilbert's riparian reserve one time and walked past a burrowing owl sign with an owl sitting right on top of it, took a minute to realize what I was seeing- I was very close to it and it didn't move at all, they are not shy at all lol Probably what has led to their decrease in numbers. They are beautiful creatures. Can't wait to see spring pics and future pics, it's going to be great!
Having gotten most of the planned for trees in , I will probably round it off to about 200 . A small fruit orchard is planned , an enclosed screened veg garden is in the works . The rabbits down here are atrocious . I do not if it is noticeable in the pics but it has been neccessary to enclose all the plantings with rabbit wire fencing . Rolls and rolls of rabbit wire . I've made hundreds of 5 and 6 foot diameter circles to go around the plants . Hopefully this year I will replace the existing fencing and enclose the wildlife area . Although not caring for the looks of it chain link will be used it . Some 1500 feet will need to be put up , in addition to the fence itself once put up it will be necessary to go back and trench the entire exterior perimeter and install 3 foot high chicken wire at the base of the fencing to keep out the rascally rabbits ( I hate bugs bunny , just call me Elmer Fudd )
The chicken wire will be buried a foot deep into the ground leaving 2 feet above ground wired to the chain link .
Ground covers and flowers will be a focus in the next two years , these coming later as they will take less time to mature than the trees and larger shrubs . The creek and ponds will probably take me a year to a year and a half to see close to completion . ( as if a garden is ever really finished ) Always a work in progress , I remember some time ago where there was a thread here on garden signs . I hope to get my wife to finish a sign for me . I found an old battered highway sign that I reprimered and I want it to now read
" GARDEN CONSTRUTION AHEAD " with a few flowers and what not painted around the perimeter . And then erect it at the front driveway .
Fish knees , I understand you've quite the garden , any suggestions on somewhat drought tolerant ground covers , flowers . That is the rule here , being in keeping with the envireonment here and with having to haul water it is necessary to try to conserve . I've been a little generous during the time while getting things established but xeriscape here is something of a neccesity . It is not impossible to have a nice looking garden through xeriscape . I've used a number of different sages and in blossom they are pretty . I love the creosote ,very fragrant when damp . If some of you would possibly like to do a field trip in the spring lets see what can be done , I am comfortable enough with my progress that there is something started here just remember that that this is a place " UNDER CONSTRUCTION " and will be for a few more years yet .
It is wonderful to see what you've created on your land...and you've managed to really make it blend into the natural element of Arizona. Wow...I'm totally impressed with the burrowing owl habitat! I'm with the others...a field trip one day would be great!
Wow. Sorry to hear that the builders have ideas. No one is safe. But, I'm reminded that Shepards Iris Garden, Paolo Soleri and some others were able to keep their dreams alive when civilization found them. Maybe the things that come with 200 houses will bring prey for the owls.
I am out a ways , about a mile from the junction of Highways 84 and 347 . 347 is the main road through the town of Maricopa , you go past the AK-Chin casino another 12 miles or so . Then you have to look for milepost 162 . Then hang a left going east at the first road after by the water tanks . If you drive on 347 and get to the junction you have gone too far .
Right now the place is kind of blah from some freezes , March , April things will be greening up . The emus are blossming some honeysuckle of course if shovels , rakes, pruners fit into anybodys hands then they are welcome most anytime .
I found this guide over in the wildlife gardening forum though it is written for Georgia much of its premise can be applied here . I have used both dead trees and saguaro skeletons to provide nesting locations for cavity dwellers . I realize that those who live in HOA controlled communities can not do much of this ( one very good reason why I do/will not live in one of those ) I had followed much of what they suggest already , for those interested it is a fairly good set of guidelines
As Georgia experiences the gradual but persistent loss of habitat, there is a growing need to enhance remaining natural areas. You can help support wildlife by creating a sanctuary in your backyard. To support a healthy habitat, you must provide food, water, space and shelter. Follow these steps to create a backyard sanctuary:
1. Hang bird feeders with various types of bird food.
2. Plant native plants that flower and fruit. They provide the best food sources for wildlife, while generally requiring less fertilizer, less water and less effort in controlling pests. Native plants may also support 10 to 50 times as many species of native wildlife as non-native plants.
3. Provide nest boxes and nesting material.
4. Build a brush pile to provide shelter and nesting sites for a wide array of animals.
5. Try to leave two trees with cavities per ¼ acre. More than one third of all forest-dwelling birds and mammals require a hole for nesting and shelter.
6. "Plant" a six-to-eight-foot dead tree in your yard. Dead trees provide homes to more than 400 species of birds, mammals and amphibians.
7. Provide a source of water.
8. Mulch your plants. They provide the added benefit of luring insects, snails and other creatures that become dinner for the animals in your yard.
9. Provide several rocks piled in a sunny spot to attract reptiles and amphibians.
10. Start a composting site for a supply of chemical-free fertilizer.
If any of you have suggestions on sites related to wildlife gardening I would enjoy learning of them . Particularly if it relates to the southwest .
Birdlady Susie , I had wanted to try to attract purple martins and had looked at some of these telescoping poles with plastic type gourds but it was told to me that it may not appeal to the purple martins here . Have you any input about that ?
Hi lonediver.. Excellent information! Now, where to get a dead tree to plant?? I really do want one for the very reasons the article implies.
Relating back to Diane's post regarding the grass: I did indeed see the Elytrigia. I thought about that one but I must watch my pennies. I am definitely ordering the Sporbolus and the Nasella and if the budget allows some Panicum. Of the three the Nassella interests me most. It looks so awesome! I want to mix it in to my mixed borders, in front of pots, everywhere!
I have been going around properties that are likely to or are under development that they will likely want to clear . The trick becomes finding one ( dead tree ) that has the desired cavity holes . I have found smaller diameter trees that as I said above I am turning into arbors/trellisses to grow vines on . I tried a few smaller mesquites but found that the grain of the wood seems to break down too quickly . I was talking to someone today that has a dead ironwood that I can likely have . Fortunately it is not too far away and there are sufficent back roads that I can take so as to avoid the nusance of getting over width permits etc. Looking around me there is a number of properties that will likely be developed with a number of dead ironwoods . Finding the proper person to ask is the next problem but with time can be found . Some of these tree trunks can be somewhat artistic . I have a 14 foot flat bed trailer with a drop down ramp so if I can get to the object of my attention I can pull it up on the trailer with a hand winch leaving me with the small problem of getting the object off and to the location where I want it in the yard .
Surely if you hunt around your area you can find someone with a dead or sickly tree . I avoid trying to make saw cuts except at the base of the tree where I will bury it so a saw cut will not be seen . If I have undesired branches I will devise a way to break/snap it off . I feel a break looks more natural than a saw cut .
I went back to check on the Nassella , I was/am more familar with it as it turned out as a Stipa . I have/am trying several different stipas/nassella . The tenuissima that you are thinking of is commonly called mexican thread grass . I could possibly help you with some of that , I started a bed of that 2 years ago . It can spread , I have found small starts of it in other beds than where I had started it . Other stipa that I started but am waiting to see how they do are ( using stipa rather than nassella )
The mexican thread grass that you are seeking I have ocassionally seen at home depot . It can be quite pretty if you like grasses . I had also gotten some peruvian hair grass that was supposed to get somewhat taller than the mexican but it did not seem to do so well in the heat here . I think that I saw where one or two of those might be coming back .
So much great info, I am glad you popped up again to tell us how you were doing. I wanted a dead tree, but there is not much room left in my yard. :( You are setting the example for me regarding what I want to do when I retire. We are looking at somewhere around Silver City NM, so your information will be saved and earmarked for that purpose.
I belong to the Desert Rivers Audubon and they have just begin the Audubon At Home pledge. I have included their link below, as well as the one for the Tucson Audubon. They are both full of really nice people who have lots of info and support to offer people who are making their property attractive and safe for birds and animals. I know that if you are a member of Desert Rivers, AZ Cactus sales gives you 10% all of your purchases... :)
Of course the whole time I was working I was closely supervised ( my thumb apparently got in the way ) you can barely make one of the owls out . He is sitting just inside the entrance of the pipe on the left .
Yes , they do go down the black plastic tubes which are perforated 4 inch currugated tubing . Perforated is chosen to allow for drainage of any water that might enter . These average around 15 feet long from the surface to the bucket/nest . Six inch PVC is put around the last 5 feet and extends a few inches beyond the black pipe as the black pipe is very light and dogs could chew up the ends of it , so the PVC acts as armor to protect the lighter pipe . A aeresol styrofoam is shot between the walls of the pipes to bond them together . This nest is having pipes going up vertically from the nests to above ground level with caps in place . Hopefully in the future I can get an infra red camera that can be dropped down these pipes to observe nestlings .
I take it that you would not like to join me in some things that I have done in my occupation as a diver . In the past I myself have crawled through pipes full of water to clear obstructions or do different repairs . To give you a sense of it , go into a windowless closet on a moonless night in a electrical blackout .
I imagine the interior of the owls nest is much like that , can you imagine the night vision that they have ?
I was just thinking about your name, lonediver. Kinda scary. I was told to never dive alone. But I know some like to explore the caves alone.
So. I don't know about these owls behavior. Do they forage for food on the ground or fly and grab a pigeon. Just mainly wondering if they fly at all. Seems strange to be subterranean AND fly. Dunno why.
Most certifying agencies do have a certifacation now for Solo diving/solo divers . I have never done the formal training but I have studied the materials . I have done training to the instructor level and numerous search and rescue training/seminars . In my work it has been at times necesary to solo dive as often times where I go there is no room for two divers really . Other times the visibility is so bad that one cannot see your hand in front of your mask . People ask why don't you use a flashlight . I in turn ask have you ever driven in a snowstorm ? If you turn your lights on in a snowstorm the snowflakes refract the light right back at you . When visibility in water is poor it is usually because there is too much fine particulate matter hanging in the water . Using a light there would have the same effect , it just comes right back at you .
So I practice what I call braile diving , I have much practice at working in the dark .
As to the owls here is something I took from another site ;
"Burrowing Owl, common name for a small ground-dwelling owl found only in the western hemisphere. The burrowing owl inhabits open country, such as grassland and farmlands. In the summer it nests from British Columbia and the western half of the United States as far east as Manitoba, Canada, and the Great Plains. In the winter, some burrowing owls migrate as far south as Central America and Panama. There is also a year-round population in Florida.
The adult burrowing owl has brown coloring on its head, back, wings, and tail, which are boldly spotted and barred with white. Its white chest is crossed with horizontal brown bars. Young burrowing owls in their first year, called juveniles, have plain, off-white chests. The burrowing owl is 23 to 28 cm (9 to 11 in) long and has distinctively long legs. Its night call is a soft coo-coooo, like the call of a dove. When disturbed, it makes an alarm call similar to a rattlesnake’s rattle.
For much of the year, the burrowing owl’s diet consists mostly of small mammals, including field mice, young prairie dogs, and rabbits. It will also eat small birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and fish. In the summer, it eats mostly large insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and also scorpions. The burrowing owl hunts mainly in the early evening and at night, but during the breeding season it also hunts by day. It may swoop down on prey from above or run along the ground to seize prey in its talons. Burrowing owls are known to deliberately follow a dog or a horse to look for animals stirred up by its passing.
Nesting takes place between March and July. During courtship, both the male and female repeatedly fly up into the air and hover together, then descend. The male feeds the female near the nesting site, and the two smooth each other’s feathers and nibble at each other’s beaks. Burrowing owls usually nest in small colonies, using the abandoned burrows of other animals, such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels. The owl uses its feet to enlarge the burrow until it is 1.8 to 3.0 m (6 to 10 ft) long, with a nest chamber at the end. It lines the burrow and the nest chamber with dried horse or cow manure and may use the same burrow year after year. "
At this site they did not say why they gather manure , I have been told that they gather the manure so as to " farm " for dung beetles . I have seen natural nests near me where the nest entrance is circled with gathered manure . As you can imagine bugs/beetles do gather there . So the owls are raising a crop for future harvest . I have at times gathered some manure for them and dropped a pile close to thier nesting area which they then scatter .
All very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to post all of this information. I tried SCUBA and found I'm a person who doesn't trust her equipment. Just can't count on the air in the tank etc. I prefer snorkling.
I was playing golf one day in Palo Alto where I used to live. I was walking to my OB shot (LOL) and came upon 4 little burrowing owlets sitting on a log bobbing up and down like pistons. Sooooooooooo cute.
If it is any comfort to you , I do not trust the equipment totally either , to do so could prove fatal . The best rescue is self rescue . Know when you are in trouble and act on it . I have had to do so on more than one occasion .
The owls are very cute , that is why I am going to this much work . So I can see them often at my leisure .
I'm not a diver but have let our kids take a few classes in heated swimming pools- I know... not exactly the real thing. We are all good swimmers and have done some good ole skin diving when on vacations but that's about the extent of our water escapades. I must admit we've gotten some pretty spectacular underwater photos with el cheapo disposable cameras and the memories of what we've been able to see underwater are priceless.
I do garden specifically for wildlife though and must tell you that your creation of habitat for the burrowing owls is this side short of remarkably spectacular. Awe inspiring.
I just got home a little bit ago and was checking a few things outside before I turned in and was dropping a treat off at the burrowing owl habitat . Much to my surprise I discovered 3 baby owls outside the burrow entrance . I got within a foot of them , it was dark and the parents were not around to sound an alarm call for the babies to vamoose . I went in to get the wife and when we went back out one of the parents sounded a alarm and the babies went below before we got there . But at this point I saw no less than 3 baby burrowing owls with hopes that there will be more from another pair .
So you all can talk about puppies and kittens , I got owl chicks . Wheres birdlady Susie ?
I'm excited , I trust that I can entice birdlady Susie down here with some decent camera gear which I lack at present . I had hopes for that binocular camera but with the limitations in its instruction manual I sent it back . I talked to another manufacturers line that did not express the same limitation but it costs somewhat more so it will be awhile . My little digital camera is not up to this chore so lets hope birdlady Susie will accomadate .
If I lived where owls nested, I'd be just as excited as you are! Hope you can get some good pics. Where's your owl friend; he should surely have a high-powered digital camera. OR, you could lure Detrick down. ;-)
Birdlady Susie had some time ago expressed an interest in coming down but had some pressing family diffuculties/problems . I hope this will give her and possibly some of her Audubon friends to come down . I have DM'ed her seeking her out letting her know of what has transpired and trust that she will get back to me .
I am sure Bob Fox has lots of other burrowing owls at present , I will call him this morning and let him know but doubt he would come down . I would rather wait to pester him about the possibility of me fostering/hosting future barn owls .
Need to upgrade the count , lets make that one, two , three, FOUR baby owls . Still hoping for another pair of owls to hatch out another different brood . But at present four from the one set of parents .
I am too new here to have ever read this but I just spend a very long time, two cups of coffee and many smilles reading what you are doing on your property lonediver. And how does one dig such nice trenches? With a machine? No wonder you liekd my sgae so much...I will try some rooting compound next week on it and give you a bunch if it works.
Amazing!!! I am warmed to the bottom of my heart when I meet people like you. Hugs!
Is the owl you posted for me for the mural one of your babies? It is going to be in a tree in the new realistic mural...would that be a proper place for it?
Those open pipes that you see are the entrances to thier nest . These owls are something like the third smallest owl in the world . They are also unique in that they are the only owl known to nest in the ground . Something that is shown in the second thread is that they normally take over other creatures burrows ( usually once abandonded ) such as ground squirel burrows here and enlarge them . I attempted showing the difference in the size of the burrows once they enlarge them .
Now stop to consider , these creatures live in the ground coming out of a small hole . Nature can be cruel sometimes , so it is in thier best interest to be located in open areas . Too much dense growth around thier home poses a threat as to hiding a predator that would prey on them . Upon emerging it is more desireable to have a clear field of vision around them . This is self preservation . In that pic I linked to , I provided dead branches a feet from thier entrances to serve as elevated perches . With nothing growing on them , these as perches are desireable because nothing can be hidden on them to surprise them .
My observations of them they normally in the daylight hours that they are out spend time around the entrances or on the perches rarely venturing more than 50 or 100 feet away . In pre - twilight hours they will start ranging/foraging for food . They normally fly very low , not much more than a few feet off the ground , swooping up very suddenly to land on an elevated point .
Does that give you a few insights to thier habits and why ?
So far as the ditches go , they were done by hand , one shovelful at a time .
Until lonediver educated me, the sum total of my knowledge of burrowing owls was A) That particular one is called a "burrowing owl"; and B) I'd see them lined up on a log or limb, popping up and down -- two or three up, two or three down, kind of like whack-a-mole. LD's habitats are a work that requires a passion bordering on zealotry --- do you see anyone else, for ANY reason (other than a buncha $$$!!) digging holes like that? His place is awesome now, and in a few years will be a paradise for desert denizens.
In other recent developments I have a number of wildlife photographers who are expressing an interest in photographing my wildlife in the garden that I have created . One came last week to look over the location and was already here this morning on the news that owlets had emerged .
Welcome to Desert Rat Habitat Studios . (Hmmm , wonder who the desert rat is ? )
My garden is starting to arrive .
Another development , I had/have set up a turkey vulture feeding station ( some details you probably do not want to know ) They arrive almost daily , anywhere from 6 to 15 or more vultures . Very graceful birds in flight . I came to learn that the Boyce Thompson Arboretum has A Welcome back vulture day apparently in March usually . It seems that there is a place on the grounds where the vultures roost . It is interesting to see them feed .
You have such a wonderful property, Doug, I am sure the photographers are having a great time!
I am still with Liberty and we have a couple of T.V.s did you know that if they get nervous or upset, they will vomit if they have eaten within the last 3 hours? Let me tell you, if it was nasty before it was eaten... eewwww!!
Yeah , I know about the eewww ! ! On a few days where the T.V. ' s did not take my "offerings" I would take said "offerings" back in a bucket where I could protect the "offerings" . After two days or so it can get more than a little rank . At that point I simply leave the "offerings" for the night shift . Pesky and crew get hungry too . If I leave it out at night , it will always be gone in the morning .
I find it interesting that T.V. 's and such metabolism/digestion and such resists boutulism etc. . Maggots are supposed to be excellent protien so I read .
Set up here late afternoon/evening/night to take pics of the roadrunners and burrowing owls . He left about 10 P.M. and plans on returning for more . He has turned into a wildlife photographer after retiring from a long distinguished career with Arizona Game and Fish . He, for one intends to be here for the Queen of the Night blossoming .