First Owl Feature

“First Owl” — Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

The “First Owl” — so named because it was spotted first — continues to perch in a place where most park visitors would never notice it. The “Second Owl” — spotted later — sits in the open where everyone can easily see it. To see First Owl, people need some assistance. So, I set up my camera high up on a stretch tripod, with a screen down at eye level showing the bird in close-up through the lens. Between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, more than 50 people stopped and had a look, and convinced themselves that there were two owls in the park this year, not just one.

First Owl mostly sat quietly. The bird is gradually becoming accustomed to people. Some people stood high on the retaining wall to see it, and kids on their dad’s shoulders made kid noises, and the owl never reacted. It even yawned and stretched and scratched itself, as you can see in the video. Those are actions of an owl that feels secure. There were moments when the bird showed alertness, even mild alarm, but humans were not the cause. Around midday, First Owl tended to doze a bit, which is typical. Its naps lasted only a few seconds, or at most a minute or two; the owl can take quicker naps than any feline. As usual on a sunny day in this habitat, the owl had plenty of company from Ground Squirrels. They live here all year; they mate here and have their babies here and are parts of a widely extended family living in hundreds of yards of complex underground burrows. The owls are seasonal guests. The squirrels are much too big for the owls to attack, so the owls more or less have to put up with the furry traffic, even when the squirrels rudely upstage them in the video.

Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyii) with Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

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