Ground Larks

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) Jan 24 2023

I’m so used to thinking of larks as birds in the sky that it’s taken me quite a while to get my head around the fact that Western Meadowlarks are primarily birds of the ground. Of course, they aren’t “larks” at all; technically they’re in the blackbird family. But that really doesn’t matter. When I start thinking about birds not as creatures of song and poetry, which are of course always circling up in the blue sky, but as real physical beings that have to eat and procreate and all that, then I see them differently. Here they are, with the first low slanting rays of the morning sun, looking for their breakfast in the grass in the big meadow in the southeast corner of the park. I first saw just a handful of them, and as I tried to get closer, they flushed, and along with them came maybe thirty to fifty others. They’re very skittish, not letting people come nearly as close as sparrows and finches allow. But they soon settled again and went back to work, and I was able to catch a bit of video. They get their sustenance from the ground, and later they will build nests on the ground if they can find a safe place to do so. That place is probably not Chavez Park. The Off-Leash Dog Area is so remote from parking that many dog owners let their dogs run off leash from the car to the area, right through the meadow where the Meadowlarks dwell, and often on the trip back as well. The Meadowlarks have to be out there early to get their sustenance before traffic hits.

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) Jan 24 2023

Burrowing Owl Update

I didn’t get to the park until 1 pm today. At that time the Burrowing Owl stood in Perch B, where a park visitor could see it with unaided eyes from outside the “art” fence. During the 20 minutes that my video camera ran unattended, the bird showed one moment of alarmed behavior, raising up, opening eyes wide, and looking around quickly. The video below features that brief episode. The rest of the time the owl appeared calm, looking left and right in a relaxed manner. A Ground Squirrel intruded into the foreground of the video, munching on grass. After what may have been a brief attempt at looking big and scary, the owl ignored the rodent. For the final few seconds of the video, I changed my camera angle, looking north now from the Open Circle Viewpoint. While the camera was running. two parties of park visitors came along from the north side, each with an active small dog off leash. Each owner claimed not to have a leash on them. The dogs in this case did not cross the boundary fence.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan 30 2023

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