Dec 19, 2014 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2014

Readers Write: Waiting in Line

Nest boxes intended for squirrels can become a home to other species, including honeybees and screech-owls.
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When my son, Ryan, and daughter, Amanda, were around 5 and 3 years old, we built our first squirrel box as a family project. Soon after placing it high in our maple trees, squirrels began to entertain as we watched their babies grow and frolic in and on top of the box—our gift to them.

Many years of squirrel observations took a detour when our squirrel box became the host of a hive of honeybees. Entertaining as it was, we decided it would be best to give away the beehive in the interest of safety of our children. A call to a local beekeeper brought to our mighty maple a man with a ladder and a "smoking cigar." A quick ascent of the ladder, a mighty puff of cigar smoke into the opening, and a quick seal with duct tape, our squirrel box full of valuable bees was rushed away in the back of a pickup truck.

Semi-retired 35 years later, I decided to relive the good times past by placing a new squirrel box in our mulberry tree. After two months of squirrellessness, I was surprised late one evening to see a strange protrusion from the hole in the front of the box. It was a screech-owl!

While enjoying the afternoon sun on the day of the first frost in Kansas, I was pleased to observe and photograph a brief encounter between a squirrel and the owl—on and in my squirrel box. I guess it's an owl box now!

About Michael Hurst

Mike is a semi-retired pharmacist who enjoys international travel and watching backyard birds from his deck in Wichita, Kansas.

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