All Eyes on the Burrowing Owls

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. ¬†ūüôā ¬†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 ….

_DSC1267So 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._DSC1264I was so intrigued by this finding, that I could barely pick up the camera to capture images!_DSC1289Its 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._DSC1314_DSC1394Other owls were paired up in their burrows, as they kept a watchful eye out for overhead predators. ¬†_DSC1474Over the first few weeks that I visited, I would find new burrows springing up that hadn’t been there in years past._DSC3186Obviously, by the look of things, “groundbreaking” and “renovating” was still quite actively going on._DSC3192This poor owl looks like it has had enough already of the flying sand being tossed about them._DSC3204_DSC3235As 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! ¬†_DSC3139These 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._DSC4927While 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._DSC4929It’s amazing to watch the dexterity the owls possess in handling their catch._DSC4934Sometimes 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?_DSC4942After 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. ¬†_DSC4945She then paraded around quite a bit with it, finally stashing it into the burrow for later consumption._DSC4950_DSC5001I always love it when they fly into the nearby trees for a shady break from the hot sandy burrows. ¬†_DSC5020Getting 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._DSC5118Such 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._DSC5173I 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?_DSC5234Incoming 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. ¬†_DSC5274Such 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. ¬†ūüôā_DSC5222

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

http://www.tnwaphotography.com