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Building a bird nest desert syle !

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

Thumbnail by lonediver
Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Another view with the buckets to be nests

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

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Beverly Hills, CA

Hi lonediver...

Now THIS is my type of garden. I think this is incredible what you are doing. Nice work!

Mesa, AZ

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?

Susie

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

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Cave Creek, AZ

lonediver,
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.
Mickey

Mesa, AZ

Very impressive. You can't see that my mouth is hanging open at just the thought of a project like you have taken on. The owls thank you and so do I!

Diane

Phoenix, AZ

Here's lonediver's owl - at the Phoenix Zoo, no less! In addition to being beautiful, looks like they got a lot o' 'tude.

http://members.cox.net/rmscott/misc/burrowing_owl.html

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Hi Benny and Susie ,

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 .

Thumbnail by lonediver
Beverly Hills, CA

I for one would love to observe. I have always dreamed of having a proper amount of land so I could build a proper wildlife haven. You have definitely accomplished that. Absolutely wonderful!

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

My Christmas present to the wife last year , an Aeolian harp . I need to restring it now but with the winds down here it is pleasant to listen to .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

The wifes christmas present to me this year . I must have been a bad boy , 6 dump truck loads of dirt ( notice the ribbon on top ) . Now I can get started on my creek .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Another pic of my christmas present looking more what will be downstream on the creek .

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Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

Wow, what a lot of work, and how awesome that the owls are appreciating it! So glad you're sharing... lots of photos, please!

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .
Arizona rosewood
Green hopseed ( dodnea )
Japanese privet ( which is'nt doing too well , may try New mexico privet or sugarbush )
Barberry

Thumbnail by lonediver
Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

Thumbnail by lonediver
Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

This vacant spot will be the area for the larger of the ponds at the bottom of the creek which will be just over 200 feet long .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Another shot of grasses and the Aeolian harp .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

The starting cactus area close to the owls

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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

Thumbnail by lonediver
Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

If you look to the left of my fence line that is what my place looked like 3 years ago

Thumbnail by lonediver
Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

One of my buggy junk gardens in the left foreground

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

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Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Last one and I am done for now , any comments ?

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Beverly Hills, CA

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.

Great work!

Phoenix, AZ

Admirable work, lonediver. I'm speechless.
I adore owls.

question.... your 5th pic, Jan 12 9:21pm... what is the long span of white at the horizon? Looks like a housing for horticulture or feed lot thingy.

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Aguane that is a dairy , fortunately with the prevailing winds it is downwind most of the time . They do fairly well at controlling the odors anyway , it is kept up well .

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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!

Phoenix, AZ

Amazing, simple amazing!
I feel a field trip coming ☺

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Mornin' Fish knees and Azreno ,

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 .

Tolleson, AZ(Zone 9a)

I am in total awe of your place lonediver. What everyone else said and then some. I think i would love a field trip to your place.

Phoenix, AZ

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!

~Kim

Phoenix, AZ

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.

Mesa, AZ

Oh yes, a field trip would be wonderful!!! You are not that far away and I would love to see your place.
Who wants to go and when would you like go?

I love the Christmas present, your wife certainly knows what your hearts desire is!

Thanks for the generous offer - if I can't get some of these crazy people to go with me, I'll come by myself! (with binoculars!)
Susie

Phoenix, AZ

Susie, I'd love to go! My schedule is more flexible than most so I'm open to others' suggestions as to date and time. Note: I don't want to be on fwy at rush hour though.

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

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 .

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