Owl Diary: Monday 1/21

Fine weather is no guarantee of fine owl viewing. Today was a case in point. Not a cloud in the sky, but not an owl to be seen from the paved walkway. The east owl reverted to its hiding place in the rip-rap, invisible from outside the fence.

Can you spot the bird? The owl is approximately in the center of this photo; see the white arrow:

East owl in its hiding place in the rip-rap. Here it is invisible from outside the fence.
East owl in hiding place, detail. Note brush awning overhead.

Note that in this spot, the owl has an awning of dead brush over its head, and probably cannot be seen from above. Invisible from the path where people and dogs pass, invisible from overhead, this bird has found a fairly safe spot. It’s just by good luck for Burrowing Owl fans that it can be seen, or at least part of it can be seen, with a long zoom or a good pair of binoculars, by a human standing in the Open Circle viewpoint. Without that we would not know that the bird was there.

Owl fans fared even worse with the north owl. Usually as reliable as Old Faithful, the north owl was in deep hiding when I passed by at around 11 a.m. It was not in its usual spot and it was not in any other place where I’ve ever seen it. I waited quite a while, as the owl sometimes takes short breaks and then resumes it usual position, but no luck. The north owl was underground or gone.

What’s going on? One possible clue came from a pair of park visitors with binoculars around their necks with whom I chatted on the way to the owl area. They said they had this morning seen a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, a female Northern Harrier, and a White-tailed Kite. I didn’t happen to see any of these raptors during my visit, but if one of them had been cruising the area earlier that morning, it would go a long way to explain why the owls were in hiding. Female Northern Harriers, in particular, are large, keen, and fearsome raptors. If I were a little owl and I saw one of those in the sky, I would definitely go into hiding.

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