Owl, Nervously

The Burrowing Owl that Charlotte Bauer first photographed this past Sunday morning, and Phil Rowntree imaged yesterday, was back again in the same spot this morning, and I had the opportunity to take a video (excerpts above).

This owl squats closer to the paved perimeter trail than any owl in recent years. Its only protection is the ground squirrel burrow, probably enlarged by a blacktail hare or two, where it sits. Not ten yards separate it from the decorative wire fence that borders the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary. It has no cover from overhead raptors.

This is one of the most nervous owls I have observed. It tracks everyone who passes by. Yesterday morning at about 9:30, when I approached after Phil had photographed it, the owl took off and flew north, then west. This morning, a park visitors who did not realize an owl was near approached the spot with rapid motions and a loud voice, and again the owl took flight. It seemed to me that it landed in the rip-rap on the north side outside the protected area, but when I checked that area carefully, I did not see it. It did not return to its site next to the burrow within the next 45 minutes.

Individual owls differ in their tolerance for disturbances. This one needs to be babied: no rapid motions, no loud voices. How long it will be happy with this exposed location remains to be seen.

Update: I went back to the site at around 4 pm. The owl was not to be seen. Possibly this is the spot where the owl spends the night. In full daylight it goes elsewhere, to a spot not yet discovered.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

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