Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lunch Hour - Cesar Chavez State Park Berkeley - Burrowing Owls - 1/26/11

          Working so close to the Berkeley Marina I was able to take advantage of Cesar Chavez State Park on my lunch hour. I wanted to see if I could find any of the Burrowing Owls that have been wintering here each year for well over a decade. As I parked my car and set off along the paved path I quickly noticed a large Red Tailed Hawk being mobbed by two Ravens. It was fun to watch as the Ravens annoyed and pestered the Hawk as all three birds maneuvered in unison throughout the sky.

Red Tailed Hawk

          On the northeast corner of Cesar Chavez State Park is where the Owls like to hunker down for the winter. The city of Berkeley has started and almost finished an art installation that acts as a protective barrier for the burrowing owl habitat. Cesar Chavez is a very popular dog park and there are many owners who do not follow the leash law making it that much more dangerous for the owls and other native wildlife. The number of returning owls has greatly declined over the past several years. With more than 15 or 20 owls wintering here over 15 years ago compared to roughly 4 that were counted this year.
          As I approached the northeast corner the Hawk and Ravens were circling overhead. I believe this is what caused most of the owls to retreat to their burrows as I was only able to spot one owl that day.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

          The owl was definitely nervous and kept a keen eye on the Hawk overhead. The owls are very funny looking and could be described as a mix between a gremlin and R2D2 from Star Wars because of the way they turn their head from side to side.
The owl did not stick around long as the Red Tailed Hawk made a quick descent and tried to prey on the owl. The owl was deep in its burrow as the Hawk scoured the area ready to kill.

Red Tailed Hawk Hunting Burrowing Owl

Luckily, with no avail the Hawk took off.

Red Tailed Hawk After Take Off

          Because it is not good to give too much attention to the owls as it stresses them out, especially when there is a predator in the area, I headed back to work. In fact pointing at the owls can even draw predators to the area so there are signs posted that you do not do so.

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