This morning I again checked the spot where the owl that arrived on Oct. 30 had perched. A young Black-crowned Night-Heron perched a bit below that spot, close to the water’s edge. But no owl.
Once again I scanned up and down the rip-rap embankment with the telephoto lens set like a magnifying glass. Nothing. And then, scanning north, in the classic spot where Burrowing Owls had perched in 2018 and 2021, bingo! Just as plain as day in the slanting morning sun stood a Burrowing Owl. Like the owls from previous years, it backed up against a bush of dry California Poppy stems, giving it complete cover against threats that might come from the west. In this position, the owl is totally invisible from the paved perimeter trail and its two-legged and four-legged traffic. The only spot from which it can be seen is the Open Circle Viewpoint.
The bird stood on one foot, a sign of feeling safe. It swiveled its head at a relaxed rate from left to right. It glanced briefly in my direction without apparent interest, and looked away.
My first impression is that this is a new owl. It seems to me that its breast is lighter than the Oct. 30 owl. But I was not able to get a full frontal image of the Oct. 30 owl, and what I was able to get stood in the shade, not in full morning light. So I have to hedge my bet.
Male and female Burrowing Owls look so much alike that only they can reliably tell their genders apart. The best that humans can do without catching and handling the birds is to look at the color saturation during the breeding period. The females spend most of their time underground on the eggs in the burrows. They don’t get very much sun. The males spend almost all their day above ground. The sun bleaches their feathers, reducing the color saturation. Based on that theory, and assuming that these birds have come directly from their breeding season, this Nov. 4 owl is probably a male. The Oct. 30 owl, if in fact its color was darker and this was not an artefact of lighting, was probably a female.
This owl’s perch lay about 112 yards from my camera, based on a Google Earth estimate. My still and video images were taken at a telephoto length of 6,600mm with a Nikon P1000 point-and-shoot.