Owls in Drizzle

Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) at about 2 pm on December 22 2021

Neither rain nor wind nor cold and drizzle deterred the two Burrowing Owls that have lived in the park since November 2 from maintaining their positions out in the open today. The First Owl, in fact — the one that can’t be seen from the paved trail — chose a spot more out in the open than usual. It abandoned the roost where a dense canopy of dried California poppies provided some overhead shelter. It chose instead a perch about 50 yards south of there, on an exposed rock, without the slightest shelter of any kind. Credit goes to sharp-eyed owl watcher Mary Law, who first spotted it there and reported its change of site. This owl remains a phantom to most park visitors because both its original and its new positions lie outside the scope of what you can see from the perimeter path outside the artistic fence. The second owl meanwhile — the one that lives in plain view of anyone passing by — remained in its usual spot. I should add that although it sits in plain view not 20 feet from the fence, its feather coat blends so well with the surrounding dirt and gravel that many a park visitor has walked past without noticing it.

Both owls showed no signs of harm from the rain. Some of their crown feathers looked wet, and some of their coat on the lower back might have got a bit soaked, but that’s only the outer layer of a bird very well equipped to stay warm and dry in the elements. I’m a bit concerned that they may be thinking about going further south where climes are warmer and drier. We haven’t had this cold and wet a December for several years, and the birds may not share the same joy and relief at this respite from the drought that we humans feel. Normally the Burrowing Owls, once they’ve stayed this long, will stay until early or mid March. But that’s no guarantee. If you haven’t seen them with your own eyes yet, seize the day.

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