Egret Shift Change

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) Jan 15 2023

Snowy Egrets, often quite common, have been kind of rare around the park in the past few weeks. (Park visitor Al Chen emailed me today to say that many dozens of them were in the tule marshes north of Pt. Isabel, feasting on the frogs, lizards and other creatures forced to the surface by the downpours.) So when I saw one perched on the rocks off Marina Boulevard opposite the hotel, I went out of my way to film it. The bird didn’t seem interested in fishing. It just did a bit of preening, almost as if bored and passing the time. Then it perked up, and a moment later it took off, almost colliding with another one coming in. The new arrival settled on a neighboring rock and also seemed uninterested in food. If these were humans you’d think they were assigned as sentinels to watch this spot, and the time had come for a shift change. A bit later I went walking in the Berkeley Meadow (Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park) and saw a couple of these egrets stalking in the newly formed rain ponds. I suspect that’s the first time I’ve seen these beautiful birds foraging in fresh water. Since they are carnivores, living mainly from fish and other aquatic protein, I doubt they can find much in the rain ponds to sustain them. But clearly, they were interested, and checked it out.

Burrowing Owl Update

California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) and Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan 17 2023
Squirrel yawning

The Burrowing Owl in the park this morning had moved back to Perch A, where park visitors cannot see it from the paved perimeter trail outside the “art” fence. In this position the bird had a bit more shelter from the steady northerly wind than in Perch B. As usual, I set up my camera on the Opening Circle Viewpoint, and I had the pleasure of showing three other wildlife photographers the owl in this position, 110 yards distant. In the 30 minutes that my video camera ran, most of it unattended, the owl stood in the same spot, alertly looking left and right and sometimes back and up in the usual way. My short video above captures some special moments when the owl has little furry visitors, when it changes position, and when it performs its preening rituals. I got a kick out of the last episode, where the squirrel has been watching the owl preen, gives a big yawn, and then starts preening itself. Squirrel see, squirrel do. In this slice of time there were no hostilities between the species. The squirrels kept their distance and the owl mostly ignored them. All the same, it looked like a sort of companionship.

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