Today was the day we've been waiting and planning for for months!  We finally released our first 6 families onto our first preserve!

After consulting with experts at the Zoo, we carefully picked our owls to relocate.  We decided to pick families with fledgling chicks that can't fly just yet, which would force adult parents to remain on the preserve to care for the chicks.  This will minimize the chances of abandonment of the reserve as occurred with a previous experiment, as families will have to stay until their fledglings can fly.  We're hoping their presence might attract other owls, though this is an unproven theory thus far.

We banded owls before we released them.  I hope they stay and find happiness here, and in the process, maybe they will heal this scarred and damaged land.
Ah, the owls have the most furtive, beautiful, deep eyes...

Currently owls that we have rescued from construction projects have been housed in the San Diego Zoo, to which we have taken a few field trips to monitor.  The owls have the most amazing way of speaking with their eyes and expressions, and even though we know they're not human (and their expressions probably don't mean what we think they do), we're really starting to get attached to these cute little guys.  They're all healthy now, flying and posing and twisting their heads in that famous way they have of doing it.  I can't wait to get them out onto their new homes, so they can fly around without the confines of a cage again.  We're continuing to plan the relocation of these owls onto the preserve burrows, and also starting to think about the next phase of our project, discussing ideas and potential activities branching off the theme of burrowing owl protection.  After all our involvement this year, we've only become more attached to this sweet little bird, and maybe we'd like to try our hand at changing some construction legislation.
We removed the cage tops on the pie today, releasing some squirrels onto the preserve to continue creating new burrows for owls that will hopefully be colonizing the area soon.  As it turned out, simply releasing the squirrels was much more complicated than we had envisioned at first when creating this plan, and we had to account for the gap that their absence would cause in the environment from which we'd first rescued them.  Our solution was to release some and remove some back to their environments if their populations there had sufficiently low rates of reproduction.  There were very few squirrels that we had to take back, though, since squirrels' reproduction rates are so outlandishly high.  Still other squirrels have been removed to await the opening of another preserve where we can transport them to create yet another owl colony.  We'd only envisioned successfully creating one, but from the way things are going, it looks like we might be able to carry our project over to helping even more ecosystems!  That means we'll get to help even more owls and squirrels, and even more regions of California recover!

We also conducted a final count of the amount of squirrels we have relocated on both preserves.  The total is a little over 350 squirrels rescued!  We were so busy having fun with squirrels and the environment we totally didn't notice just how many cages and squirrels we'd moved.  We wish the released squirrels the best of luck in their new homes!