Owls’ First Month

December 2 is the first monthiversary of the two Burrowing Owls now in Cesar Chavez Park. This is quite a special occasion. The annual reports of the former Burrowing Owl Docent Program going back to 2011-2012 detail no instance of two owls arriving in the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary in the northeast corner of the park on the same date. In the memory of long-time park visitors, you have to go back more than a decade to see an owl perched and visible on a daily basis so near the paved trail as our Second Owl this fall.

The First Owl, not visible from the path, seems to be re-enacting the role of the East Owl documented in the 2018-2019 winter; that owl perched in exactly the same spot. Is it the same bird? We don’t yet have a way of identifying individuals.

The Second Owl has drawn and inspired many park visitors to take pictures. Sometimes this owl seems like a fashion model, posing this way and that while the cameras click. The owl long ago lost the nervousness that it displayed in the first day or two. Now it ignores people, turns its back on them, or confronts them with repeated yawns.

Here are four takes on the Second Owl by photographer Shawna S., who posts many beautiful wildlife images on Instagram at @shawnaphotography_. She writes,

My first time at Chavez park and what a pleasant surprise to see the burrowing owl. I “had to” snap couple pics. What amazed me was the curiosity of the public and  especially the young ones when they spotted the owl. The wonder and enjoy on their faces was priceless. This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for all the people who fought and worked hard to ensure there was spot saved for critters to call Chavez Park their home.

All images Copyright 2021 Shawna Photography.

The Second Owl also charmed Louis Kruk, who describes himself on his online portfolio as “Photographer, yachtsman, juggler, traveler, Mr. Nice Guy, retired teacher of Physical Education.” Louis’ images have appeared on the cover or in the pages of Sports Illustrated, Sail Magazine, Yacht Racing & Cruising, Kazi in Tokyo, Paris Match, Latitude 38, and Reader’s Digest, among others.

Among Louis’ Chavez Park owl images is a rare catch: the owl in the process of expelling a pellet. Owls, like many other birds, have two stomachs. The first is very muscular and crushes what they eat. The soft parts proceed to the second stomach, where they’re digested. The hard parts get compacted together and coated in a dark sticky substance, forming a pellet that the owl regurgitates to clear its system for further eating. (For a video, see “The Owls Came Back.”) Here’s the shot; look closely in the bird’s beak and you’ll see the pellet coming out.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) expelling a pellet. Photo Louis Kruk.

Louis is also one of the few photographers to get a sharp-enough image of the First Owl, tucked away under its shrubby awning in the rocks out of sight of park visitors on the paved perimeter trail. He caught it looking up at a bird passing in the sky, with a Ground Squirrel resting behind and above. The squirrels are very much at home here. The bird is a seasonal guest. This bird is probably using gaps between the rocks as a safety shelter, and is not relying on a squirrel burrow like the Second Owl.

First Owl (Athene cunicularia) with Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyii) Photo Louis Kruk.

Thanks to Shawna and to Louis for sharing their images. If you have photos or videos of the owls or other parts of nature in Chavez Park, please send them to info@chavezpark.org for publication.

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One thought on “Owls’ First Month

  • December 3, 2021 at 6:42 am
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    Mr. Kruk’s wildlife photos are crystal clear, artistic and well composed. I am familiar with Mr. Kruk’s yachting photos. He captures the essence of his nautical subjects and transports the viewer topside. His pictures of the tragic ’79 Fastnet race he participating in on the mega-yacht Kialoa are spell binding. We are fortunate to be able to live vicariously through his work. Great publication folks.

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