Where do many local birders get their local bird news from? The New York Times, of course. Yesterday the print edition on page A-3 had a two-paragraph item excerpted from park visitor Isabelle Gaston’s piece in Monday’s Berkeley Daily Planet. As it had done a day earlier in its online edition, the Times published the item under an AP file photo of five baby Burrowing Owls probably taken in Alaska. The caption read, “A reader suggests visiting a park in Berkeley, Calif. to see a burrowing owl like the ones above.”
The Times item brought out more than 50 visitors to the Burrowing Owl site this morning between 8 and 10. Several of them had to be consoled at not seeing the cute baby owls shown in the NY Times item. A number had never seen a Burrowing Owl before and were thrilled. Most people came from Berkeley or nearby, but some came from Marin County. I had to answer a steady stream of questions about the birds — where are they from, what are they doing, what do they eat, when do they sleep, etc. etc. It was fun and gratifying to see so much interest. The owl certainly expanded its fan club this morning. It’s important for an imperiled bird to have a wide circle of humans who love it and support its right to exist.
The object of all this attention meanwhile remained calm, cool, and collected. It looked left and right in its usual relaxed manner, and gave the assembly of human admirers only the occasional glance. Apart from a few seconds of light preening, the bird displayed no other activity: no signs of alarm, no reaction to furry visitors, nothing out of the ordinary. For that reason I’ve again skipped posting a video of the bird this morning — no “action” — and posted only a still photo, above. I plan to be back in the park this Saturday and Sunday morning and hope that the owl will cooperate by staying in Perch B, where its admirers can easily see it.
One of the fringe benefits of being an owl docent is meeting other park visitors who know stuff, have seen stuff, or have taken great photos in the park. Among them yesterday were Beata and Alexandre Milhano, who knew their park birds very well, and had just taken a series of outstanding pics of a White-tailed Kite in the air. I’m going to publish them tomorrow. They’re a visual treat!