Solstice Greetings

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

As if posing for a Solstice greeting card, this House Finch basked in the early morning sun and waited patiently while I took its picture. May this bird be a messenger of good wishes and gratitude on this occasion to all who love Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park. The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season. It is nature’s cake. All the human-made celebrations, green, red, blue, whatever color, are icing. Whatever your flavor of choice, may your Solstice be sweet, peaceful and filled with love.

Here is a poem on the Winter Solstice by Rafael Gonzalez, Berkeley’s Poet Laureate, in Spanish and English. Thanks to Sheila Jordan for forwarding it.

Deseándote las bendiciones de la temporada
hoy y siempre.
Que el nacer de la luz nos ilumine el corazón
y nos traiga la justicia y la paz,
salud y felicidad
y una Tierra sana y salva.  
En esta oscuridad que la luz en nuestros corazones,
iluminen nuestras vidas y guíe nuestra revolución
con amor feroz para que nuestra lucha
para sanar a la Tierra, por la justicia, la paz
la llevemos con alegría y belleza,
nuestro proceso y meta.
Wishing you the season’s blessings
now & always.
May the birth of the light illumine our hearts 
& bring us justice & peace, 
health & happiness, 
& an Earth whole & safe. 

In this darkness, let the light in our hearts
brighten our lives & guide our revolution
with fierce love so that we wage our struggle
to heal the Earth, for justice, for peace
with joy and beauty,
our process and our goal.

Burrowing Owl Update

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Dec. 21, 2022.

The image of the Burrowing Owl with its wings spread occurs at 40 seconds in the 60-second YouTube video. The bird saw something in the sky and dove for cover down in the rocks. Counting the bird’s response time in video frames, it took 12 frames or 4 tenths of a second for the bird to disappear. Another frame from this sequence is below. Three minutes later, the bird was back, standing on one leg again as if nothing had happened.

This owl probably learned to dive for cover when threats appeared overhead before it even learned to fly. Out in the wilds where Burrowing Owls breed, raptors are part of everyday life. Diving for cover is Just part of a ground-dwelling bird’s day.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Dec. 21, 2022.

Shortly before diving for cover, the owl looked up in response to what sounded like crows, and possibly a raven. With my eyes glued to the viewfinder, I did not see what the owl saw. A few weeks ago I saw a crow dive-bomb the owl’s perch near the Fennel bush (“Perch B”). Possibly the owl feared a repeat of that experience.

The rest of the time that I observed it, the owl was alert and quiet. It ignored a Ground Squirrel that rested on a neighboring rock. It did a bit of preening, but not much.

The owl paid frequent attention to its right, the direction where the perimeter trail lies. I’m satisfied that in this perch next to the dried California Poppy bush (“Perch A”) the owl cannot see people or pets passing by on the path. It’s situated too low. But it can certainly hear them, and it shows an untiring attention to those sounds.

All this occurred in what we’re calling “Perch A,” next to the dry California Poppy bush, invisible from the paved perimeter path. To see a record of where the bird has chosen to perch, consult this spreadsheet.

Several viewers have complained that the owl’s dive for cover happens so fast in the video that they missed it. Of course, doing it very fast is how the bird survives. Here is a slow motion version, with the 0.4 seconds of action stretched to 8 seconds.

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