Rock Owl Comes Out

The “Owl on the Rocks” that has been hiding in the rip-rap on the east side of the Burrowing Owl Preserve, out of sight, came up and out into the sunshine today. It chose a spot on the far east side of the fenced area, on the rim of a rabbit hole, next to a chopped fennel bush, backed up against a vertical slab of construction debris.

The owl blended so well into the slab behind it — both light brown with white spots — that I might not have noticed it without the zoom of my camera lens. A couple of dozen people walked by and accepted my invitation to see the owl on the camera screen. Once they had seen it on the screen, they were able to spot it in the feather with the unaided eye.

A Ground Squirrel climbed up on the rock and basked in the rays as we watched. The owl paid it no attention, and the squirrel ignored the owl. This was in line with the more energetic owl/squirrel interaction I filmed on December 13.

This is the first time this year that I have seen a Burrowing Owl on the surface of the preserve in good clear weather. An owl was spotted on the surface, mostly hidden in a rabbit hole, a few feet away from today’s owl on December 4, with a nippy east wind and temperatures in the low forties. On November 24 and 25, an owl hunkered in that same hole during a dense fog. Earlier, on November 11, on a sunny morning obscured by smoky skies, the first owl of the year appeared in the preserve. The November 11 sighting was the seventh owl sighting of the year in the park. All the previous owls in the park took positions outside the preserve. None of the owls seen in the preserve before today remained for longer than two days.

I began my owl quest this morning by looking for the “Owl on the Rocks” in its usual hiding place in the rip-rap, where I have photographed it almost daily since December 6. When I did not see it, I became intensely curious where it might have gone. A slow, close scan of the surface with long zoom solved the mystery.

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