Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Burrowing Owls Return to Berkeley for the Winter

Burrowing owl returns for the winter

Over the last two winters, I have enjoyed spending time watching and photographing Western Burrowing Owls at Berkeley's Cesar Chavez park.  These owls are wonderful to watch, as they are often visible during the day and they hang out in burrows dug by the copious ground squirrels.

I have grown particularly fond of one owl who seems to prefer a home near the rocks right at the edge of San Francisco Bay.  I cannot be sure, but I think I have seen the same owl each of the last three years hanging out on the rocks.

Burrowing owl hunkers down

So far this year, I have only seen two owls, but I am hoping more will return. Or that I can spot some that are hiding well in the park. The second owl has chosen a burrow in a protected location, behind a fence that has been installed specifically to help protect the fragile habitat and homes of the owls (who are a Species of Special Concern in California). People and especially off-leash dogs can be a real threat to these ground-dwelling owls, even if they are well-camouflaged.

Burrowing Owl balances

Here is the second owl, right after sunset on a breezy night, a few minutes before s/he flew out to hunt for dinner.

The windblown look

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