As I was walking at Seal Point park in San Mateo along the San Francisco Bay one day with my dogs, Minnie and Noodle, I spied, with my owl-vision eyes*, a wee owl.
Almost immediately, I recognized the 6-inch tall bold yellow-eyed mini-raptor for who he was: A burrowing owl. What didn’t make sense was why he was just standing in the middle of a rock near the bay, and why he didn’t seem spooked by me in the least**.
Well, as luck would have it (actually not so much luck since I bring it almost everywhere I go), I had ‘fancy pants’ camera (a friend’s name for my Sony Alpha 6400) and my 300 mm lens. So, I snapped away. Just so you know how exciting seeing one of these guys is to me in the wild, the only other time I saw burrowing owls was at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago when I was in my early 20’s. At that time, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – they are just so unbelievably cute. That’s also how I was able to identify him. I returned again and again to the bay with my dogs and every time I came, Saturday after Saturday, he was there, in the same exact spot, for about a month and a half.
‘Wee Owl,’ as I have named him, remains on that rock as of 4 days ago, when he returned after a 3 week hiatus. I was a tad worried that he was absent from his rock for awhile, since the weather had gotten crazy and the bay was churning from the high winds recently. I thought perhaps his house had gotten flooded out. But there he was again on Sunday, just posing for me.
*Thanks to two bird watcher/enthusiasts, Lisa and Dawn, who I see at Fort Funston while photographing horned owls, I feel I’ve developed ‘owl vision’ where I can see them. I never could before, they could be 2 feet in front of me and I would not know they were there.
**Since then, I have learned from a wildlife expert that burrowing owls really stand their ground, and don’t like to move, and are pretty territorial. So unless I get within about an arm’s length of Wee Owl, he’s not going anywhere.