I almost didn’t get to the park at all on Tuesday. I arrived not long before sunset, and ignored all the other birds on my rapid walk up to the Spiral to see whether the “Owl on the Rocks” was still there, for a fifth consecutive day. Even in the fading light, I could see the bird. It had hardly changed its position or its posture in five days. I took a snapshot; see my post about the continuing presence of this owl, here.
Then, hastily, I continued my route north and then west along the northside edge of the park, outside the fenced preserve. A week ago, another Burrowing Owl docent, Mary M., had reported spotting an owl there, and on Sunday a birder couple told me that they had seen it half an hour earlier. But nobody had a photo. The birders told me exactly where to go: On the first promontory west, if I looked eastward on the rocks, there it would be.
On Sunday I had gone to that spot and stayed a solid half hour scanning up and down the rip-rap looking for that owl, without success.
Today I was pessimistic, but I went anyway. I threaded my way down a little path made by fishers to a spot on the water’s edge where park visitors Andre Bourgoygne and Johanna Naederhouser had spotted and photographed an owl three weeks ago. I saw no owl. But an owl saw me! A flurry and a soft, almost silent flutter of brown wings crossed low over the rocks from my right to my left, settled out of sight on a rock about thirty yards out, and moments later emerged again and perched, in plain view, on a rock below the promontory. The first part of my video, above, was taken from that spot on the water’s edge, looking at the owl about forty yards away on the side of the promontory. The owl stood there, looked around, climbed to a higher rock and then took a few steps, and held that position for long minutes.
I kept the camera running, but left most of that footage on the cutting room floor because all the owl does is swivel its head this way and that. Even for a dyed-in-the-wool philowlogist, it gets old. The sun descended behind heavy clouds and the light was failing. I folded my tripod and headed further west, intending to shoot the sunset. But as I passed the promontory, the thought occurred to me that possibly the owl might be visible from above. It seemed remote, but worth trying. Much to my surprise, and the owl’s, I had a clear view of the bird from above, not five yards away. The owl was clearly not thrilled to see me; it went into full alert mode, its eyes big as moons, focused on me and my camera. Then, up on the path not far away, a dog barked. That was too much. Moments later, the owl flew eastward and down, and disappeared into a crack between the rocks. The light faded and I saw it no more.
This is not the first time that two owls have been sighted the same day. Another owl docent reported seeing two owls within a few feet of each other on the rock where an owl was first spotted on October 21. Still, two owls in a day remains a rare occasion so far this year.