Blue’s Blink

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Jan 3 2023

With my eyes focused on the water, I twice missed the Great Blue Heron standing quietly on the grass in the southeast corner of the park. Other park visitors pointed the big bird out to me. At this time, the big heron stood as if cast in plaster like a lawn ornament.

Wildlife photographers, however, feed on action. So, I focused on the only part of the bird that showed action: its eye. Every 15-20 seconds or so, the bird blinked. I’ve explored the heron’s blink previously; see “The Heron’s Blink,” Oct 24 2020. We saw previously that the heron does not blink with outer eyelids similar to those of mammals and some other birds, notably the Burrowing Owl. It blinks with its nictitating membrane. That’s a tough transparent inner eyelid that moves sideways from front to back. The first part of the video above shows several blinks at normal video speed. This we’ve seen before. Then the video shifts to a more advanced slow motion frame rate (120fps), and I saw something I had not seen before. During the moment when the nictitating membrane completely covers the eyeball, the bird quickly rotates its eyeball as if to ensure complete wiping and moistening of the surface. This is cutting-edge wildlife action video. You saw it here first, in Chavez Park. 🙂

Burrowing Owl Update

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan 5 2023

The Burrowing Owl remained in Perch B at around 8:30 this morning during a short lull in the “Pineapple Express” rainstorm. The bird had survived the night’s downpour, complete with a thunderclap around midnight, without apparent harm. My guess is that the bird spent the worst of the wetness in a sheltered spot. Had it endured the rain fully exposed, it would look drenched, as for example in the morning of December 31. Instead, the owl this morning looked basically dry. When it spun its head, little or no moisture flew off. This bird had taken enough of a shower and found a dry spot during the night. The jumbled rocks around its perch offer several caves where a small bird could find refuge.

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