Burrowing Owls and California Ground Squirrels mostly get along in a friendly, neighborly way. But there are moments when the squirrels crowd the owl too close and gnaw through its last nerve, and then the owl reveals its inner raptor nature. It crouches low, ready to pounce, spreads its wings to make itself look big, and gets a hard, menacing look on its face. Photographer Keenan Quan, with great patience and some luck, captured one of those moments yesterday.
This particular owl has shown no interest in perching on the grass next to a Ground Squirrel burrow. Some other owls have preferred that kind of micro-habitat. But the rocky embankment on the east side of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary has had a steady and loyal owl following. The Ground Squirrels consider this rocky slope as part of their domain. In the gaps between the stones they have entrances and drainage channels for their earthen burrows. They may forage in the fields for their vegetarian diet, but when disturbed, many of them race for the shelter of the stones. So it’s very likely that the squirrels and a stone-dwelling Burrowing Owl will meet. We’ve seen several instances of what seems like inter-species companionship. Even good friends can get on each other’s nerves sometimes. Keenan’s photo is a beautiful, sharp capture of one of those moments.
Burrowing Owl Update January 7 2023
This morning at around 8 am the Burrowing Owl remained in Perch B, where park visitors could (and several did) see at least its head without benefit of optical amplification. The stiff southern wind repeatedly mussed its feathers. The bird looked alert, regularly checking to its left and its right, occasionally glancing in the direction of the camera.