FARGHER LAKE — A pair of barn owls in north Clark County are about to lose their longtime home in the rafters of an abandoned shed, but they’re in luck: Their landlord has decided he doesn’t want to evict his winged tenants.
In fact, he opted to build them a dedicated nesting space atop a brand new tower.
“We always knew it would be part of the plan, to not just kick them out,” says owner William Doty.
The new digs are more than your standard nesting box — they’re really the cream of the crop when it comes to upscale barn-owl real estate. The 8-by-8-foot brick tower stands 16 feet tall, topped by a wooden pitched-roof structure that houses a pair of nesting boxes and features an entrance with protruding branches in front for owls to land on.
The potential residents aren’t limited to owls. In addition to the nesting boxes at the top, there are smaller holes in the bricks midway up the tower, creating entrances to the dark interior that can serve as a nursery for bats. And there are ledges under the eaves of the roof to provide nesting space for sparrows and other birds.
The tower is family-friendly, Doty says. The nesting boxes inside have entrances about six inches above the floor, in order to prevent owlets from accidentally falling out. There are also two wooden doors on the front of the structure, providing access for humans in case the tower needs maintenance or an interior cleaning.
Doty and his wife, Roxanne, own the Fargher Lake Store at 15518 N.E. Fargher Lake Highway, about 8 miles north of Battle Ground. The property includes the store, a gas station and an old open-walled barn, which the Dotys plan to renovate and turn into an outdoor event space complete with a stage, foyer and restrooms.
But the remodel will necessitate tearing down a dilapidated shed that houses an old boiler once used for mint harvested from a nearby field. And that means displacing the owls, who have lived there for years — as long as the Dotys say they can remember.
William Doty says the idea to build a new home for the owls started when Roxanne joked that he’d gotten old and ought to start building birdhouses; somewhere along the line, the bird house idea became a 16-foot owl tower.
“Bill overdoes everything,” Roxanne Doty said.
The tower is officially called a wildlife tower and is based on designs from a British conservation group called The Barn Owl Trust, which has a page on its website with tips for how to build and position the towers to make them more appealing for owls. The Fargher Lake tower uses brick for the walls rather than stone, but otherwise sticks close to the Trust’s model.
Contractors began work about two months ago, and the tower itself is now complete. But there are a couple of finishing touches that William Doty says he plans to add to give the owls’ new home an extra shot of personality: a stone patio and a decorative metal fence that he found at the Rebuild Center in Portland.
“I’m kind of addicted to building materials,” he says. “I gather them up.”
The tower is a short distance northeast of the barn, visible from the road and the Fargher Lakehouse restaurant across the street, which the Dotys also own — they bought the shuttered tavern site and remodeled it, reopening the restaurant in 2016.
William Doty hopes the owl tower — along with the restaurant and the future event space — will bring more visitors to the Fargher Lake area. He says he’s even thought about adding a camera inside the tower with a video feed so people can see the owls, who tend to be pretty skittish whenever anyone ventures into their current boiler shed home.
Of course, before that can happen, the owls have to move to the new tower. It’s entirely up to them to choose it, but Doty says he’s confident that they’ll see the appeal once their old home starts getting torn down.
“That’s the question I get asked the most,” he says. “I personally think they’ll figure it out on their own.”