Last week I posted an image of Burrowing Owl siblings that I found in northern Utah and today I am posting images of that burrow after spending yesterday morning being delighted by them once more. This time I had much better light because I was there with them not long after the sun came up instead of much later in the morning.
Before I begin I want to state that I am always in a vehicle when photographing these owls, I never get out and I stay a respectful distance from the burrow. There is never a time when a photo is more important than the safety and well being of my subjects and if I felt my presence was disturbing the owls and their normal behavior I would simply leave. I will always put the welfare of birds or animals above the desire to get a photograph.
As far as I can tell there are at least 6 juvenile Burrowing Owls at the burrow because at one point I could visibly see six of them at once. These juvenile owls are about the size of an American Robin and are only a few weeks old, their chests will become more spotted as they age but for now their chests are a plain buffy color without markings.
Burrowing Owls are often most active at dawn and dusk and will hunt during the day and night. These young Burrowing Owls are learning to hunt for themselves near the burrow now for insects and any small mammals nearby.
They are also perfecting their balancing, landing and flight skills. This burrow has an old barbed wire fence close to it and even though the fence posts seem to be their preferred perches they do often perch on the rusty old barbed wire too.
The barbed wire isn’t as easy to balance on so the owlets spend a bit of time getting or regaining their balance while on it.
The juveniles spend a lot of time preening, stretching and looking around sometimes twisting their heads nearly upside down.
The adults are usually nearby watching over their young, protecting them from predators if they come in too close as this adult was doing when…
This male Northern Harrier flew in and past the burrow. The adult owl stood on the burrow near its young until it felt the danger was past. (Blurry image because I wasn’t expecting the harrier and couldn’t lock my focus on its face)
Once the danger was gone life went back to normal at the burrow and the young owls sat warming in the sun at the burrow opening or flew up to the fence or fence posts.
Watching them land on the barbed wire fence was interesting and I could see the look of concentration on their faces, especially immediately before their feet touched the wires.
Then when they struggled a bit to gain or regain their balance. There was a breeze and I suspect that made a smooth landing even more challenging.
I hope that all of these Burrowing Owl juveniles do well and survive to reach adulthood. They are amazing residents of Utah’s deserts but their populations are on the decline.
Life is good. Life is even better with Burrowing Owls in my life.
Please don’t ask for the location of this burrow, I don’t divulge nest locations, especially owl or raptor nests, unless they are well known which this burrow isn’t. I also wouldn’t announce a nest location out loud because there are unfortunately unethical people who might harass the birds by getting too close too often. I have personally seen that behavior too often.
For facts on Western Burrowing Owls take a look at these sites:
A great place to read about good field ethics is Principles of Birding Ethics published by the American Birding Association.