(Burrowing Owl Update Below)
The sunshine and the new grass have brought out the sparrows, including these large rust-colored California Towhees. They typically forage in pairs. They’re year-round residents in the Native Plant Area. Although they nest in trees, they forage for their living on the ground. As the video shows, they’ll scratch the ground with both feet at the same time to dislodge edibles. They’re great devourers of weed seeds, including seeds of wild barley (“foxtails”). These birds are California natives that have adapted better than some to urbanization. They’ll come to gardens and sometimes peck at fresh lettuces, and they’re fairly common birds at feeders, where they glean what drops to the ground.
Their mating patterns are a bit unusual. They are socially strongly monogamous, remaining together all year, five or more years in a row. But sexually they’re not exclusive. In one study, 42% of nests had eggs sired by two or more males, and mixed-paternity broods were common. They’re not into long periods of mourning. If the death of a male breaks up a pair, females may find a new male and form a new pair the same day or a short time thereafter.
The day before the Winter Solstice last year, I happened to see a California Towhee up in one of the Monterey Pines just a few yards from the meadow where the birds in the video were foraging. Here’s a snapshot of that bird. It might very well be one of the pair that was scratching the ground a few weeks later.
Burrowing Owl Update
Yesterday morning the owl could not be seen. But two park visitors texted me in mid-afternoon to say that the owl was visible again in Perch B. That was good news!
This morning, the owl again could not be seen. Not in Perch A. Not in Perch B. So, taking a cue from yesterday, I returned to the park at 3 pm, and sure enough, the owl was visible again, this time in Perch A. Visible, that is, with a long telephoto lens from the Open Circle Viewpoint.
Are we looking at a new pattern? Does the owl have someplace else it likes to go in the mornings? Sleeping in? Breakfasting at the Seabreeze Market? It’s so small it could hide in a million places. It’s wonderful to see it back in the afternoon. While I watched it for about half an hour, the owl was quiet, looking left and right, and not alarmed by anything. No little furry companions paid a visit. So, a photo will do here instead of a video. Note that the light is coming from behind the owl, instead of in front, as in the mornings.