The east owl is a clever, cagey bird. Shortly before noon today when I visited, I saw the owl perched in its usual hideaway in the rip-rap, behind the rock and under the brush awning. But it stood just a bit higher, maybe six inches, than usual.
At that height, I thought, its head might just be visible from outside the fence. I went and checked. Well, no. When the owl is on its pyramid rock, you can plainly see its whole head and neck and part of its torso from outside, and that wasn’t the case here. I just about gave up. But then a suspicious color pattern hidden in the brush caught my eye — and then it moved. With my zoom lens I could see just the top inch or so of the owl’s head, bumping up against its brush awning, swiveling from time to time. And then, an eye! Two eyes!
The clever owl had picked out a position where the brush awning protected it from overhead and where it could spy out on the green plateau that makes up the owl preserve with only the tiniest chance of being observed. You had to have spent hours looking for and at Burrowing Owls to spot this bird in that hideaway.
Meanwhile, the north owl had gathered a small crowd. No fewer than five park visitors who had not yet seen an owl this year, in some cases ever, gathered in a knot to pay homage to this beautiful bird. It stood on one leg, perfectly lit by the sun, framed by the fennel on both sides, with a liquid background — a photographer’s dream. As I’ve noticed sometimes in the past, the bird seemed sleepy around midday. Maybe it was the warmth, or maybe it’s the bird’s biorhythm; in any case, it ignored the bunch of humans admiring it. But when a pair of off-leash dogs came by, brought by a scofflaw owner, the owl went on alert, with its eyes open wide, watching carefully. The dogs passed, and the bird relaxed again.