How to See First Owl

“First Owl” Feb. 13 2022 8 a.m. (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)

A number of park visitors who have noticed the absence of the “Second Owl” — the one that was easily visible — assume that the Burrowing Owl season is over. Not yet! At least, not as of this morning. The “First Owl” remains in its usual spot and recently has been standing up tall and making itself more visible. However, if you don’t know it’s there, you’ll totally miss it. The park visitor who wants to see it needs to know where to look. Here are two photos to help.

As you’re walking north along the fence around the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary (map), with the water on your right, look for the first brown “AREA CLOSED” sign hanging on the wire fence directly over the artistic cement wall. That sign is a marker for the First Owl’s location. (If you see such a sign hanging on the fence not over a cement wall, you’ve gone too far; backtrack.)

“AREA CLOSED’ sign is a marker for First Owl’s location

Stand at that sign or a few feet — not more than a few feet — left or right. Locate the big dried fennel bush, the furthest one on the left. Look at the base of that bush on the left side, outlined against the water, and you may see the owl if it’s there. It helps to be tall. You may stand on the wall, it won’t bother the owl if it’s there (the bird has seen people standing there dozens of times). Remember to look against the water, not on the grass. Binoculars or a zoom lens will definitely help.

First Owl location to the left of fennel bush, outlined against the water

This owl is occasionally out of sight and sometimes squats down so low that you can only see the crown of its head. But lately it has been perching tall and proud. If this owl follows the traditional pattern, it will remain here until the first or second week of March. It then departs for its breeding grounds somewhere north or northeast. Nobody knows where; this bird isn’t banded and it doesn’t seem to have a GPS transmitter attached.

For the record, this owl got the label “First Owl” because it was spotted first, in the morning of November 2 last year. The other one, “Second Owl,” was spotted later the same day. The Second Owl stayed in its highly visible spot in the central circle of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary, delighting hundreds of park visitors, with only rare absences, until January 28. Then it disappeared to parts unknown until February 2. It was last seen February 3, with what looked like an injured wing. See “Owl Hurt?” Feb. 3 2022. There is no further information. Its absence is a cause of concern and disappointment.

“First Owl” Feb. 13 2022 8 a.m. (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing Owl Update: Feb. 21

First Owl Feb. 19 2022 8 a.m.

The First Owl was present Saturday morning Feb. 19 in its usual spot. I took a 40-second video of the bird as seen from the paved perimeter trail (left). At that moment the bird stood tall. Minutes later, the owl hunkered down or stepped to a lower perch, and only the crown of its head and occasionally one eye were visible. On Sunday morning and again this morning (Monday 2/21) I was unable to spot this bird either from the path or from the Open Circle Viewpoint.

The Second Owl — the one on the gravel — was last seen Feb. 3. It appeared to have an injury to its wing. It disappeared on Feb. 4 before rescue efforts could be attempted.

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