Sunday, April 18, 2021

Western Burrowing Owl

Eight days after seeing about 12 burrowing owls near the Salton Sea, I headed out again. Having seen baby great horned owls earlier in the week, I really wanted to see some baby burrowing owls and I realized they could be there at any time. 

More and more I'm understanding that this area changes greatly from week to week in the form of what animals present themselves. Several months ago I was seeing snow geese by the hundreds or thousands, but nary a one the last few weeks; eight days ago I saw 12 burrowing owls and had never seen one there previously; American avocets were everywhere last week, yesterday I saw one; and I saw hundreds of white-headed ibis yesterday, something I'd never seen there before. 

I'm getting better at spotting burrowing owls now, I saw 19 yesterday following the same route I'd seen 12 on earlier. I saw one on Vendel Road on the drive out of Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR, unit 1. I only saw a part of its head, but it was enough to recognize what it was. There were several other burrowing owls I saw in that manner. 
So I'm going to present photos of the owls without much more commentary:
After leaving Vendel Road, turning left (east) on Bannister and eventually left (north) on Forrester, I started seeing the burrowing owls on the right hand side of the road (east), standing on the dirt embankment over a deep agricultural water ditch. This was owl no. 2. 

Owl no. 3

No. 4

No. 5

Nos. 6 and 7. I could just barely see the top of the owl on the left's head and thought it was a baby. I waited about 20 minutes to pop up and it never did. So I continued on and circle back later and caught the left-hand owl fully up. 

Owl no. 7. I got out of the car and stood on a rock to get a higher view to see if I could get a better photo of the owl on the left (this is before I came back later). It ducked down into the hole so that I could not see it at all. 

No. 8

No. 9. It was near no. 8 and I just noticed the top of its head as I drove by. I had to back up for this photo. 

Owl no. 10. 

10 started to scold me, moving up and down and chirping at me. 

Then it flew away.

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13 and 14. Note that 13's head is just barely above the dirt bank. 

A better look at 14. 

I got a better look at 15. This was now on Gentry Road, just south of the visitor center for the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR refuge and across the street from Kate's Lake, a little one acre or so lake surrounded by cattails. I got a closer look at 15 as I actually took my car down the farmer's dirt road on the east side of the irrigation ditch. 

I just barely caught 15's feet and tail feathers as it flew. 

I found 15 again for some more photos.

I'm not sure what this behavior is, but I think 15 may be eating a bee or some other insect. A closer view below. 

Owl no. 16

Owl no. 17

Owl no. 18. I did not have my 600mm lens extended and I like this more background focused shot. You see the farm fields and the desert mountains (Chocolate Mountains - I think) in the background. 

Close-up of 18 standing on a pipe. 

No. 19. 19 flew and the photo below shows 19 peering out from behind a bank. 

It was as much fun seeing them 8 days later as it was the first day. However, I took over 600 photos the first time and about 250 this second time. My focus was more documenting each one and less on getting great photos as I got some good ones previously. I still need to see some babies!

1 comment:

  1. It is fun to see the slight differences among the owls. Each one seems to have its own personality. Do they stay in one place year-round?