For many years now, I’ve been heading out to hang out with the burrowing owls and of course, take a few images along the way. 🙂 In all honesty though, often I would just go and sit nearby them and observe them being owls … and laugh at their silly antics and expressions. In 2016, it was no different. Well, except for one thing. When I arrived, I expected to see perhaps a few very young owlets. However I was greeted by this ….
So the owl on the right was as full grown as the one on the left, though still had some of those “juvenile or sub-adult” feathers. What? This couldn’t possibly be a 2016 baby … it was too big already. Then I remembered a very small owlet last year who possessed these lighter brown eyes. It was the last born of his siblings and hence was quite tiny compared to the others. Could this still be him (or her)? Am I witnessing a “failure to launch” owlet? The 2 parents at that burrow were definitely the same ones from last year. One with yellow eyes, the other with brown eyes.I was so intrigued by this finding, that I could barely pick up the camera to capture images!Its size was about the same as the parents, but its behavior was still playful. As hard as I tried to get them to explain what was going on … they just stared.Other owls were paired up in their burrows, as they kept a watchful eye out for overhead predators. Over the first few weeks that I visited, I would find new burrows springing up that hadn’t been there in years past.Obviously, by the look of things, “groundbreaking” and “renovating” was still quite actively going on.This poor owl looks like it has had enough already of the flying sand being tossed about them.As i mentioned earlier, these owls spend a lot of time scouting out the skies above. They are totally fascinated by flying insects, resident parrots, flying planes, helicopters, blimps, and even balloons hold their attention for quite some time. So cute to watch as they track the action. Of course, they spend most of their time on the lookout for predators. Not too far away is a family of red-tailed hawks and of course, red-shouldered hawks are always a threat. One particular morning, Tom & I were at one of the burrows and a hawk flew right into the tree closest to the burrow we were at. I was fearful that we would watch carnage, though once the hawks are anywhere near, those owls get into their burrows faster than you can imagine! These adorable burrowing owls are predators themselves though and no frog, lizard, caterpillar or other delicacy is safe from being served up on their buffet line.While these owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, they often recover their cache and dine during the daytime. As you can see, this unfortunate frog is quite covered in sand after being retrieved from nearby.It’s amazing to watch the dexterity the owls possess in handling their catch.Sometimes they tore into them right away, other times they seemed to just toy with them a bit. Especially now, during breeding season, they are an important part of the daily routine. This one seems quite pleased with its catch, don’t you think?After posing so nicely for the camera, he took it over to the female at the burrow and offered it up to her. In this case, she gladly accepted. She then paraded around quite a bit with it, finally stashing it into the burrow for later consumption.I always love it when they fly into the nearby trees for a shady break from the hot sandy burrows. Getting back to my possible “Failure to launch” owl, a few weeks after my first visit, I noticed that it was no longer at its original burrow. Oh no, I hoped that nothing had happened to it. I waited patiently for it to emerge, but to no avail. Then as I scanned the landscape from a low perspective, I caught a glimpse of yet another freshly dug burrow, not far away. I went over to investigate and sure enough, there it was, with another owl. Did it finally launch? I mean … 3 was definitely a crowd, as they say. I noticed that it also had tufts of feathers missing on front of its neck and a would under its eye. Maybe the parents had to make it leave or maybe it had a close call with a predator. Unfortunately, I will never know. However, I was happy to see it.Such a darn cutie with those unusual browner eyes. This year, I noticed just a few of them with brown eyes, while last year there were several. One even had one yellow eye and a brown eye! Now that I mention it, I haven’t seen that one this year, but I do know that other owls have taken over that particular burrow.I just love it when they look up a bit from the burrow and the light catches their eyes perfectly and really lights them up. So, do you wonder why this one is looking so bright eyed and wide-eyed?Incoming burrowing owl! … OK, maybe not the reason for that hypnotic stare. This owl was hysterical though in the way that its behavior was so erratic and quick. It literally ran out from the burrow about 30 feet or so, surveyed the area left and right, turned abruptly around, and jumped! Then it proceeded to land and run frantically the rest of the way back to the burrow. Such silly owls they are … always displaying silly antics and even more silly expressions … which leave me in stitches on more than one occasion … each visit that is. 🙂
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the burrowing owls so far. Rest assured, there will be more coming up in a few weeks.
Next up: More images and stories from the rookeries. Stay tuned.
© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy