Owls Back

Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia)

Much to the relief of their human admirers, both Burrowing Owls were back in or near their accustomed perches this morning. The skies were clear and the surface of the North Basin had a glassy smoothness. The owls’ return lent support to the hypothesis that they spent the past few days sheltering from the brisk northerly breezes.

But there was cause for concern with the behavior of the Second Owl — the one that usually perches in a wide open spot in the central circle of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary. This bird usually pays no attention to human gawkers. This morning it had abandoned its customary gravelly perch for a more secluded spot behind the big stone at the center of the circle. It seemed to be playing hide-and-go-seek with watchers. I would go north to get an angle on the bird north of the stone, then it hopped south out of sight, and then the reverse. Eventually it settled. As fellow bird watcher Mary Law and I observed, this behavior is out of character for this bird. We wondered jokingly whether maybe the two owls changed places; the First Owl has usually been the shy one. More seriously, maybe the Second Owl suffered a trauma and now shows symptoms of PTSD.

The First Owl meanwhile resumed its former position, but lower down, so that from the perimeter trail you could only see the crown of its head. We got a better view from the Opening Circle Viewpoint, as usual.

The owls’ return fuels the hope that they will stay for the rest of the month and begin their spring migration on the usual schedule in the first half of March. Of course, there are no guarantees. If you haven’t seen them yet, carpe diem.

“Second Owl” — Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) 2/3/2022 8:05 a.m.

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