Last Week

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

The Burrowing Owl that is visiting the park this winter is probably in its last week of residence. In past years, since Burrowing Owl docents have been keeping records, the owls typically depart around the middle of March. Fortunately for human park visitors, this owl appears to have settled in one spot where it can be found reliably (knock on wood). That’s in the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary in the northeast corner of the park. The owl is sitting on the lip of a Ground Squirrel burrow just beyond the paved path. It has its back to the water, and a little dead bush just above it. A big bare bush is to its left and a big grey rock to its right. Normally you can see just the top of its head, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for you’ll never notice it, because it looks just like a round rock of the neighborhood. But this rock regularly moves! And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the owl pop out of its spot and look around a bit, and then scurry back to safety.

The Burrowing Owls we see in the Bay Area these days are migrants. They come here for the winter. They nest and breed up north or east somewhere, often in wide open spaces with prairie dog colonies. They take over one of the prairie dog burrows and raise their chicks there. Then, when the snow and ice of winter threatens their lives, they migrate south and west. This is their Florida, a place to chill and relax and build themselves up for the trip back home. They may fly two thousand miles. In the middle of this month, something tells them to head back to their breeding grounds, and off they go.

If you were hoping to see a Burrowing Owl, don’t delay.

I will try to be at the spot with my zoom camera every afternoon, but sometimes things come up and I can’t be there.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

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