The First Owl, tucked away under its canopy of dried California Poppy, came alert to the sound of a dog barking nearby. A Ground Squirrel that had come for a bask in the morning sun also stood up and faced the disturbance. Neither of them were in a position to see the dog, nor was I, but they paid attention and showed concern. Another Ground Squirrel padded by behind the owl in the right corner of the image. This little episode mirrored reports of these two species’ cooperation in the wild; they alert one another to danger. When the barking ceased, the small creatures relaxed again and went back to basking in the morning sun.
A bit later, Owl No. 2 appeared unfazed by the dog racket, and attended to the important business of preening. All birds preen. It’s essential maintenance of the feather coat and the body, and the owls are no exception. Here the owl first appeared to peck at something on one of its feet, and then went to work trying to clean the hard to reach feathers around its neck. In their summertime breeding colonies, owls that have formed a pair reportedly preen one another, the way I’ve seen crows do it here in the park. Having a partner is the best way to get at the dirt and the pests in the head feathers. But here in their winter habitat, the owls are not seen to socialize. The First and Second Owls here are about 30 feet apart but unlikely to make contact. At least in past years when there has been more than one owl, no person has seen them together. So, bottom line, a solo bird has to take care of business by itself.