Paved Paradise

28 April 2006

Come to the Sweltering Central Valley!

Carel has a nice post [part 1::part 2] concerning the ups and downs of owls at the edge of the Great Basin at Rigor Vitae.

As I mentioned in the comments thread to the second installment, at least one Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) has moved into the wood-chipped margins of a parking lot near the museum I work at. They have taken over a burrow undoubtedly constructed by a California ground squirrel (Citellus beecheyi). Yesterday I managed to get a few shots of our new neighbors:

I suspect that the owl(s) moved in from a nearby burrowing owl “sanctuary” set aside during the development of Mace Ranch Park (note: slanted wiki entry!). At the center of the second photo there is a black blob which may be an owl pellet. I wonder what this owl has been eating? The Barn Owls (Tyto alba) which roost in the oaks around the same parking lot seem to feed largely on small rodents, probably rats, according to the research of some Sacramento sixth- and third-graders.

The fact that the parking lot constructed from porous pavement may favor the owl’s future success by preventing a deluge of runoff from flooding the burrow after every storm. Still, I worry about abundant cats in the adjacent apartment complex.

It’s awfully nice to see a native coping artfully in the face of everworsening encroachment and wholesale liquidation of habitats. Refugia for native species should be a prime consideration for every new development, but it is likely to only save the most resourceful and lucky.

Go check out the loads of Burrowing Owl info and media at Owling.

4 Responses to “Paved Paradise”

  1. Alan Kellogg Says:

    What time of day were the pictures taken? They have the look of early morning or late afternoon.

  2. Carel Says:

    I love that center shot! That’s a far more urban-looking situation than I’ve so far seen Utah Burrowing Owls in.

  3. Neil Says:

    Hi Alan, the photos were taken around 11:30 AM, in the shade of a large valley oak. The reflection of the mid-day sun is visible in on the rear window of one of the cars in the center photo.

    Thanks Carel! The original shot also had some cookie-cutter apartments behind the cars but I cropped it in a little to show the little guy better. That apartment complex was prime owl habitat just a couple of years ago.

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