Still Here

First Owl (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)
Second Owl (Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia)

There are still park visitors who express their thrill and satisfaction at seeing a Burrowing Owl for the first time ever. The source of that pleasure is the Second Owl, so named because it was discovered later in the day (November 2) after the First Owl. Though the First Owl has priority in time, it chose a spot where it can’t be seen from outside the Art Deco fence around the seasonal Burrowing Owl Sanctuary. Thus the Second Owl has priority in the eyes and hearts of park visitors. The spot it chose is only about 15 feet from the fence and the bird can be easily seen with the naked human eye, once that eye knows what to look for.

New sign posted Nov. 19

Kudos today to Parks management, which in the person of Walt Vandernald, a veteran facilities superintendent, brought and hung a new set of signs to the art fence around the owl area. The new signs don’t waste words. They’re visible and clear. It took 18 days and a Berkeleyside article to get them up, but better late than never. (The Chavez Park Conservancy’s signs went up the same day that the owls were spotted.)

I was a bit amazed that the Second Owl did not react with alarm, or at all, to Walt’s white pickup truck that stopped directly in front of the bird’s spot. Walt did not know that the owl was there, but it didn’t matter; the owl is now so accustomed to human traffic that it paid no attention. The owl also didn’t pay attention to a White-tailed Kite that was hovering about 50 yards away to the south. I worry about this owl.

There are reports now that Parks management is working on improving the fence and the gates around the owl sanctuary. That sounds promising. Let’s hope that the fence improvement includes relocating the gate at the southern end so that the Open Circle seating area can be accessible to the public year round. And so that owls that perch on the rocks east of the sanctuary, like our current First Owl, can be viewed without crossing the fence.

I’ve made the case for a fence reconfiguration in a memo just before the COVID. I’m posting it here again for what it may be worth.


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