Tom Stephan, of Ramona, knew from an early age that birds would always be a big part of his life. However, he may not have guessed as a child that he would grow up to author one of the definitive works on a subject of growing interest in avian communities: barn owls.
Recently released in both paperback and Kindle formats, Stephan's Beneficial Barn Owls: The Entertaining Way to Rid Yourself of Rodents is a user-friendly guide to cultivating barn owls in various locations including urban, suburban and rural homes. Readers are not only treated to Stephan's wide-reaching wisdom and tips on how to raise barn owls safely but can also learn about the impact these magnificent creatures have on everyday environments.
Stephan says that his work with preserving and strengthening this species began more than 50 years ago when he witnessed his grandmother in Ohio work diligently to restore the bluebird population in her area. Her success led to her election as president of the local Audubon chapter and inspired her grandson to learn more about winged creatures.
Stephan's extensive bird knowledge soon drew the attention of a local reporter who asked the young man to guide groups of nature enthusiasts into the local canyons. From these activities came Stephan's interest in birds of prey.
Stephan was greatly inspired by the work of John and Jean Craighead in the field of raptors. He visited a local pet shop where he found a pleasant surprise.
"During one of my daily visits I discovered that a male kestrel had been turned into the shop. To my delight, the owners gave me the bird to take home. This new friendship inspired me to search high and low to observe birds of prey."
One day, Stephan observed an owl nesting box on a neighbor's property and offered to install it properly for her. Nearly 20 years later, Stephan has installed more than 28,000 nesting boxes for customers resulting in many opportunities to observe barn own behavior naturally and giving barn owls shelter in a quickly-dwindling habitat space.
His company, Barn Owl Boxes (346 Oak Street), offers all types of shelters for those who want to enjoy for themselves the beauty and natural pest control offered by these magnificent creatures.