Taking Shelter

As winter approaches our local wildlife looks for safe, dry places to take shelter from the cold.  Eastern screech-owls use hollow trees, dense foliage and holes in upright structures.

Last year Bill Powers of PixController set up an eastern screech-owl roosting study with five owl boxes in a dry wetland in Westmoreland County.  Each box is equipped with a small infrared video camera and small microphone wired back to a server that detects motion and streams video.

You can watch all five owl boxes at PixController’s Eastern Screech-Owl webcam page.

When it turned cold last weekend, Bill’s cameras detected motion as an owl checked out two of the boxes at dawn on Saturday.

Here’s the owl staring up at the infrared camera in Box #1 where he eventually roosted.  There’s no color because the light is infrared.

Knowing which box to watch, Bill put up a blind on Saturday and took the owl’s picture when he emerged at dusk.  He’s the handsome screech-owl in full color above.


Last night I tuned in at 9:00pm. There were no owls but I found a squirrel in Box #4, rearranging his tail and wrapping it around his body to cover his nose.

Won’t he be surprised if an owl shows up this morning!


Visit Bill’s PixController Screech Owl website to watch the cameras.  Click here for more information on the camera setup and a map of the cam locations.

(photos by Bill Powers and PixController, Inc.)

p.s.  If there are no owls when you take a look, come back when it’s colder.  Bill tells me the owls use the boxes more often when it’s 30oF.

6 thoughts on “Taking Shelter

  1. What a wonderful effort to catch sight of a wonderful bird. I watched Owl Box which was set up in Northern CA last (?) year and lost hours just watching four and then three young owls sleep! It was a great site and the owner was also set up with cameras at night which showed the parents flinging mice(?) up into the box for the youngsters to eat. I was mezmerized day after day. So here is someone else with five owl boxes. More power to him and I will be tuning in.

  2. Thank you very much for setting up these boxes! It is a great help to the owls and of course a wonderful treat for us.

    I have one question. Is there any plan to add more perches near the box as “branching” sites for the young owls (I am optimistic there will be young owls!) to use? Before the owls can actually fledge, they practice flying from “branch” to “branch” and back and forth to and from the box. I know that in artificial boxes for barn owls they have proven to be very attractive to the owls.

    Thanks again for the boxes and for this blog.

  3. Hi lisaLassie,

    Thanks for your comments and the interest in watching the owl boxes. The owl boxes are placed in an area with a lot of natural perching branches. We should have an external pan-tilt-zoom camera up and operational in the coming weeks, which will be placed in the middle of the 5 owl boxes. This will allow us to follow the owls around outside of the boxes and give the viewers the opportunity to see the location the boxes are installed. We can add the necessary artificial perches if you think it would help.

  4. Thank you very much for your reply. Now I will just check in every day until owls move in: then I will watch the owls as much as I can each day!!!

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