Holding Court

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Scaup male on rock with females (Aythya sp.)

This scene was probably a total coincidence, but I had fun fantasizing that the male scaup on the rock was holding court, attended by a devoted retinue of female Scaup. When the “king” got annoyed and flapped his wings, his attendants scurried away, but when he calmed, they came back.

There’s no reality to that scenario, as far as I know. Scaup females aren’t known to venerate males. They have no reason to. They don’t form pairs until the spring migration, and then the pairs are loose and males abandon their mates during the incubation period. This male just happened to be sitting on a rock that was covered in marine vegetation, and the females were busy lapping some of it up. This scene took place at the base of the Open Circle Viewpoint in the northeast corner of the park (northwest corner of the cove).

Scaup male on rock and females in water (Aythya sp.)

Burrowing Owl Update

This morning, Christmas Eve, the Burrowing Owl remained for a second day in Perch B, where park visitors could and did see it from the paved perimeter path. As I filmed it, the bird seemed drowsy, even sleepy. Its lids seemed heavy and kept sagging down over its eyes. Nevertheless, the owl remained keenly alert, and sometimes snapped out of its birdnap with a whip of the head toward some sound of interest on one side or the other. During the twenty minutes of my filming, most of it with the camera unattended, the owl maintained the same position and confined its motions to rotations of the head. The slow rhythm of its head motions suggests a very low level of stress at the moment. Here’s a one-minute sample:

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Dec. 24 2022

Want to track the bird’s movements, decipher the pattern, or lay a wager on where it will be next day? Check the spreadsheet.

Here, just in time for publication, are two photos of the owl that photographer Keenan Quan took this morning. Keenan patiently waited until the owl was looking in his direction before snapping the shutter. Thank you, Keenan, for these fine photos:

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