Well over a hundred park visitors stopped and had a look at the Burrowing Owl this crowded Saturday afternoon. For most of them it was their first glimpse of this almost mythical bird. They had seen the signs many times and looked for it year after year, but never saw one before. Now they are believers, and understand why this northeast corner of the park is supposed to be a sanctuary for them.
Saturday a week ago, all dog owners were on their best behavior and kept their pets on leash. The following day, two dog owners allowed their dogs to enter the owl sanctuary. One owner had his dog with him and tried frantically to recall him, which eventually worked. The other owner was nowhere in sight. The dog, a shepherd/huskie mix, flew over the fence and roamed through the area. Fortunately neither of those canines came within lunging range of the owl. Today, a big shepherd did just that. With half a dozen park visitors watching, it streaked across the fence, quickly saw the owl and went for it. The owl took wing and saved itself. The dog roamed on and exited the area. Its owner pretended it wasn’t his dog. (Disturbing a migratory bird like the Burrowing Owl is a federal and state offense.) Eventually the owl settled on a nearby rock, and after a while returned to its spot. The dog attack happened so fast that I could not film it.
Apart from the loose dog episode, the owl appeared calm. We could definitely lay to rest the fear that human observers bothered it. I took a bit more than ten minutes of video during the two hours I spent at the scene. The owl looked in the direction of its human watchers for less than ten seconds during my video clips. Even when more than a dozen people crowded around, creating a roadblock on the path, which happened several times, the owl paid no attention. Many people were seeing their first owl. The owl was not seeing its first people.
Updated March 10: The owl was last seen on Sunday March 7. It was absent from its customary spot on the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and could not be found elsewhere in the area. It has likely begun its migration back north or east to its breeding grounds.