Blue on Gray

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

This big bird almost blended into the gray that surrounded us. Gray sky, gray water, grass topped with gray dewdrops, gray picnic tables, gray water fountain. But that orange-yellow beak stood out like a traffic cone, and then that blue streak on its head and the patches on its shoulders came into focus. It was good to see a Great Blue Heron stalking the grass again.

Apart from the one I saw briefly a few mornings ago, I haven’t seen a blue heron or a Great Egret in the park for several weeks.

This one stalked around Picnic Area No. 1, this way and that, apparently not having made up its mind yet what it wanted to do. Surf or turf? The Great Blue is expert in both habitats. Would the rain drive tasty gophers to the surface? It hesitated, standing still, cogitating or testing the wind, until this human photographer’s patience wore out and I departed, with the bird still immobile.

My favorite image was the closeup of its head, showing once again that the Great Blue, unlike birds generally, can move its eyeball a little bit. Most birds don’t have room in their skulls for the necessary muscles to enable eyeball movement. They have to move their whole heads to change their focus. I’ll have more about this tomorrow.

Burrowing Owl Update

This Wednesday morning the rain took a few hours’ break after a long night of showers, but the south wind blew hard, bringing the massive Pacific cloud bank into position for the coming night’s expected drama of flooding with thunder and lightning. The Burrowing Owl stood in Perch B. This offered little or no shelter from the wind, and the owl gave up trying to stand erect in its usual pose and instead positioned itself more horizontally,, with its head into the wind. The bird shows considerable tenacity and resilience in stormy weather. I hope to check on it in the morning to see how it survived this latest and supposedly greatest “atmospheric river.”

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan. 4 2023

P.S. Park visitor Carol Rothman sent me this photo she took of a Burrowing Owl in the Albany Plateau mitigation area. She said it was very difficult to see but a friend spotted it for her. It was located near the far end of the enclosure.

This is the first confirmed sighting of a Burrowing Owl in the Albany area this season, to my knowledge. A few weeks ago a friend reported seeing one or possibly two Burrowing Owls in that area, and I went and walked around it trying hard to see one, without success. Thanks to Carol we now have proof. Thanks, Carol!

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