(Burrowing Owl Update Below)
The first time I saw this bird was in our yard on a feeder in early summer. The bird wore its breeding plumage, a harlequin patchwork of bright blacks and yellows. When I saw it later in the park, I didn’t recognize it. So reserved, even drab, with just a faint wash of yellow on the shoulders. Where was that famous yellow rump?
This individual was foraging in the Fennel on the edge of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary. It vigorously attacked the seed heads. I thought that it was eating the seeds, like finches, sparrows, and blackbirds do, not to mention the Ground Squirrels. But looking at the video closely, frame by frame, I saw that the bird was pecking between the seeds, very probably taking tiny bugs like aphids, mites, and the like. This warbler has the pointy beak of a flycatcher, not the stubby beak of a seed-cruncher.
And that’s how I saw the yellow rump. Parsing the video frame by frame showed the bird sometimes stretching, fluttering, or otherwise out of balance, and then flashes of sunshine shone through. Those clips made me believe that the bird came by its name honestly. Just for fun I’ve made a little gallery of those frames.
Burrowing Owl Update
The Burrowing Owl this morning shifted back to Perch A, meaning the spot on the rocky embankment on the far north side, out of view of humans on the paved perimeter path. This is the spot where the owl stood when it was first observed. Here a dried California Poppy bush serves as shelter for the owl, and background for the observer. The only way to see the bird in this spot is to cross the southern gate and proceed to the Open Circle Viewpoint. From there, the owl is 110 yards to the north. You’ll need powerful optics to see it.
While I was watching, the owl seemed calm and alert, swiveling its head occasionally, and once scanning the sky. It stood on one leg, indicating the bird felt safe. It used the right leg to bear its weight, but on two occasions shifted briefly to the left in order to do some preening on the right foot.
To answer the question several park visitors asked, this is the only owl spotted in the park so far. It’s not too late for others to arrive, but the chances do go down with every passing day. If you spot a Burrowing Owl other than this one please call or text 510-717-2414.