Joe Tonga’s hobby is strictly for the birds. The self-taught carpenter from East Fremantle spends his spare time making nesting boxes for native animals. He has made about 90 since he started about four years ago.
Mr Tonga’s latest work was a nesting box for a barn owl after a friend his found a barn owl nest on the ground in Guildford. Mr Tonga said the nest was probably blown out of a tree during recent storms. The nesting box will be put in place this week. “We’ll have to put winch on the tree to install it – it will be like a dog box in the sky,” Mr Tonga said. “After it’s been pulled up the tree, I’ll climb up and bolt the box on.” The City of Swan paid for the materials and installation of the box. “Barn owls aren’t very common in the metropolitan area and the City is pleased to be able to help retain their numbers in our region,” a spokesman said.
The nesting boxes are built from Queensland hoop pine and have a sheet metal covering the roof. A small section of a hollow log is used as an entrance. More than 300 native Australian animals use hollow logs to nest or roost in. A wire mesh ladder is fastened against the front wall inside the box to enable its occupant to climb out.
Mr Tonga started building the boxes when he moved to a suburban block. “I built my first nest box, installed it before spring and lo and behold a Southern Boobook owl nested in it,” he said. The boxes were his way of putting something back into the environment. He has built boxes for private landowners and councils. Some boxes have been wired with infra-red cameras to record which birds use them. “A cable runs down the tree, into the house and feeds to standard television,” Mr Tonga said. “A microphone is also installed for the sounds of the birds. I have three cameras poised for the birds to enter and nest and these images will be uploaded on the Internet.” “Mr Tonga said there were several bird “webcams” operating around the world.
— First published on The Reporter