(Burrowing Owl Update Below)
The title of this post is a bit misleading. The American Pipit has been back in the park since at least Oct. 30, when I first spotted it. I’ve seen it twice more since then. With all the other things going on in the park, the Pipit got pushed to the back of the stove, metaphorically speaking.
The Pipit visits here regularly in the winter months. The last time I saw it here was in late January. Pipits migrate from breeding areas up north in Alaska, British Columbia, northern Wyoming, and the eastern Canadian Arctic, as well as Arctic and near-Arctic spots across the Pacific. There is a small breeding population in the Sierra Nevada. They make nests on the ground in extremely challenging territories, such as the arctic tundra and at high altitudes in alpine meadows and mountain slopes. They spend the winter in more temperate spots throughout North America and may be seen in Central America and the Caribbean. The Pipit is an early return migrant in spring even if its breeding territory is still covered in snow. They migrate in the daytime at low altitudes, sometimes in loose flocks, sometimes solo.
I have no way of knowing whether this individual is the same one that visited here last winter. There is no good research on their winter site fidelity. Last winter’s bird most often foraged in the vegetation in the far north of the park; this one worked the dirt in a more central area on the occasions when I happened to see it. That doesn’t mean they can’t be the same bird.
They forage primarily on the ground, even if covered with snow, taking bugs when available, otherwise seeds. Always builds nests on the ground, never in bushes or trees. The female does all the nest building. She scrapes a bowl in the ground and then lines it with soft vegetation or mammal hairs if available. A temperature of 47 degrees F is warm enough for the female to start laying eggs. Females do all the incubation. Males feed the females during that time. The chicks emerge blind and helpless. Males feed the females and females then feed the chicks. About two weeks later they are ready to leave the nest, but parents still feed them for about two more weeks, or longer, before they are independent.
American Pipits look like just one more little brownish bird. But they’re very tough customers, able to put up with climate conditions too harsh for most other species. But their ground-dwelling habits make them vulnerable in the park. Responsible dog owners will manage their pets to respect these and other ground-dwelling birds.
Burrowing Owl Update
This nippy morning after a night of rain showers the Burrowing Owl stood tall in Perch B, the third day in a row it has held this position. Once again, following rain, the bird stood taller and more exposed than usual. It seemed calm and relaxed. In the video above I featured the few moments when the bird did something other than routinely swivel its head left and right. I had left the camera high up on a tripod filming away while I walked down the trail. Some other park visitors passed the camera and got the bird’s attention for a few moments. Then something passing overhead drew the bird’s radar-like gaze. Mostly, the owl stood and checked out the scene left and right without any signs of anxiety.