Sunrise Stakeout

Arizona Birding Series: #2

Dreams do come true.  When researching my impending (now long since passed!) trip to Arizona, I was determined to see a Burrowing Owl.  Such indelible birds were not to be missed!

Research through the annals of ebird revealed that Burrowing Owls were to be found on Lisa Frank Avenue, right in Tucson, a mile from our hotel!  Clearly this was meant to be.  I was out the door by 7am the first morning, alone, as my sister reneged on her agreement to accompany me. (You did!)

The streets leading to the stakeout where a mixture of desert scrub and industrial complex beneath a rising sun. I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect or how hard finding Burrowing Owls would be.  So I headed at out at the earliest opportunity to maximize my chances of spotting an owl.

King of the Fence. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

King of the Fence. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Lo and behold, there was a Burrowing Owl on a fence post. Right outside the Lisa Frank Building*  Not at all where one expects to find an owl. I might have easily walked past as blinded by the building as I was.  The fence was much closer to the road than the building.  Had I longer arms I might have touched the owl. (If I could have, I would have hugged it! Reached that is, if I could have reached. All owls want to be hugged. It’s a fact.)

Hike and Seek. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Hide and Seek. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

I walked to the far side of the street to sit and watch in amazement. (I might have texted a fellow birder or two back east to share my amazing fortune!)  Then I noticed there were more owls.  And they made sounds!  It was almost too much to bear.

Ruffled Feathers. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Ruffled Feathers. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

There were times they appeared to stare at me, and other times they appeared utterly disinterested.  The above owl seemed more concerned with letting the wind blow through its feathers than the whirl of my camera hard at work.

Pounce? Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Pounce? Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

They appeared very amicable birds, interacting and moving amongst each other.  They’d sit together, then rearrange themselves.  Sometimes darting across the street to chat with a neighbor, other times ducking into the burrow.

Burrowing Owl surveys the landscape at it's burrow. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Burrowing Owl surveys the landscape at it’s burrow. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

I sat there for half an hour or so, rapturing in owls.  A few people stopped to speak to me about it – the owls here are a locally-known phenomenon.   I guess they get a good number of birders.

Staring Contest. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

Staring Contest. Burrowing Owl Stakeout, Tucson, Arizona. Photo taken on June 14, 2014.

There were at least 6 owls.  I stayed as long as I could and then hurried back for family engagements.

*Lisa Frank Avenue and Building, of course, the headquarters for the company responsible for the purple and pastel unicorn and fantasy themed binders and trapper-keepers on the market in the 90s aimed at pre-teen girls.

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A Bad Case

We all get them from time to time. You’re minding your own business, happy with your birds and then it happens. From the corner of your eye you see it. A long lens on a camera, a swoon-worthy scoop. Whatever it is for you, it hits.

I was working a school science day this Friday.  It should have been a stellar day.  I was hanging out with an owl. Then I saw it.

Who doesn't want to hold an African Penguin? Taken on April 11, 2014.

Who doesn’t want to hold an African Penguin?
Taken on April 11, 2014.

A penguin.

There was a penguin at science day.

There are people, locally, who get to work with penguins.  See penguins. Every day. Who get to be bitten by penguins. Who get to know each penguin by call. Who get to smell the stench of fish continuously.  Know their genealogies and personalities. Get to lug around all 7-10 pounds of penguins.

The penguin is an African Penguin.  The Jenkinson’s Aquirium has several penguins in their exhibit. These penguins prefer room temperatures, live in large colonies and can eat 20 fish in a swimming.  They need to live with at least 5 other penguins to be happy.  They can tell individual people apart and have preferences for certain people over others.  Some prefer people to other penguins.

 

Ooooh, the envy!

During one of my breaks I got to catch their workshop.  I caught up with them right before they left so I got to be up close with a penguin! I even saw penguin love from a mere foot or two away.  They make a twittery sound and lower their bobbing heads to show affection.  (Owls just balefully disdain you from afar.)

It looks horrible, but context is important! African Penguin in a traveling case to return to its aquarium. Taken on April 11, 2014.

It looks horrible, but context is important! African Penguin in a traveling case to return to its aquarium. Taken on April 11, 2014.

Turns out the woman who working with the penguin was experiencing similar angst.  She had a thing for owls the way I have a thing for penguins (and owls).

By the way, the owl and penguin weren’t sure what to think of each other.  Perhaps never in this history of this planet has an African Penguin met a Barred Owl.