Burrowing Owls, a Northern Harrier and an American Kestrel

by Larry Jordan on March 22, 2011

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) photos by Larry Jordan

I had the pleasure of seeing two Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) at our artificial nesting site in Chico yesterday before giving a presentation for the local Audubon Society meeting on this species of special concern in California.  We have been seeing two or three owls at this site for over a month now so I am getting pretty excited at the possibility of having at least one breeding pair nesting this season!

I wanted to check on owls at two other locations before grabbing something to eat and heading over to the meeting location but it was getting rather dark with a big storm coming through.  I could see huge thunderheads to the East, with large amounts of water falling to the ground beneath them heading my way.

I headed North on Lassen Road toward our second Chico Burrowing Owl site with a quick stop at Singer Creek to see if there were any owls in the large piles of rocks along the creek bank there, but I struck out.  I did have some luck on Lassen Road though, catching a beautiful female Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) standing in the field along side the road.

I could tell that she was feeding on some type of prey animal so I slowly stopped the car on the side of the road to get some photos.  I carefully attached the digiscope to the Groofwin and mounted it on my window.

I wanted to get some video of the event but shortly after snapping this photo, a huge pickup truck, with a cattle trailer clattering behind it, drove by at high speed scaring her away with her prey in talon.  What a beautiful bird.

A bit further down the road I had the fortune of spotting one of the many American Kestrels I had seen that day, sitting on one of the fence posts separating the roadway from the miles of open grassland.  I had been seeing them hunting the fields in their usual kiting fashion (a true joy to watch) but I had not been in position to photograph them.

I previously got lucky with a female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) and now, here was a male sitting on a post, right next to the road.  The lighting was not the greatest with that big storm heading my way, it was actually beginning to wet my windshield when I took this photo, but I was happy to get it.

I moved on to check on the second Burrowing Owl habitat, behind the old school house, before the clouds really let loose.  Unfortunately, I saw no owl sign there.

With the rain coming down I headed to one of the premiere coffee shops in Chico and grabbed a cappuccino and a lemon bar.  I previewed my photos and relaxed for a bit before heading to the nature center for what turned out to be a wonderful evening with a great group of birders at the Altacal Audubon meeting.

If you really like great groups of birders and bird photographs, head over to World Bird Wednesday, you’ll love it!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean March 22, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Heartwarming news about the potential Burrowing Owls’ nest. Wishing and hoping for a successful nesting! Very nice captures of the Hawks!


Gary Phillips March 23, 2011 at 6:11 am

Great series and great info on the Owl. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.


holdingmoments March 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

Such beauties Larry; especially that American Kestrel.


srp March 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

Here the Cooper’s Hawk is the most populous and he hunts in the yard as well as the preserve… wetland swamp with pines and oaks mainly….He has paused atop our birdfeeder for a rest and since I tend to transfer human feelings to the animals ;), it seems as if he is letting the birds know he is around…. a bit Clint Eastwoodish I think. We had a juvenile Great Horned Owl a couple of years ago who would only fly out and about as a shadow at night but screamed for months. Now, just the gentle hooting… and another returning the song as well.


theconstantwalker March 23, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Lovely images and info of some beautiful birds.


springman March 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm

What a great day of raptor watching and you sure managed some great captures to remember it by. I had never heard the expression “kiting” to describe the hovering of kestrels before. I like that! My fingers are crossed your Burrowing owls breed, that would be so exciting.


Fotokarusellen March 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Thank you for info. A beautiful set of images. Well done!
Have a nice day.


Pat March 24, 2011 at 5:24 am

Wonderful raptor images and informative post! Very enjoyable!


phyllis oller March 24, 2011 at 6:03 am

Your pictures are great!
How sad about the shooting in the previous post,what is WRONG with people?Why would someone do that?I hope they are caught & the reward goes way higher,phyllis


YourBirdOasis.com March 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Great news about the possible breeding pair of Burrowing Owls and crossing my fingers for more! Please keep reporting in the situation in Chico.


Hilke Breder March 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

At first I thought it was a cat stalking 🙁 Strange to see an owl peering out among the grass. Great photo! Interesting post.


Phil March 26, 2011 at 5:31 am

A good story as ever Larry, and both the harrier and the kestrel are beautiful birds indeed. It’s good to hear about your Burrowing Owl success story but we don’t always see owls when we wan’t to, so maybe the second pair are about.


NatureFootstep March 26, 2011 at 6:59 am

The American Kestrel was one of the birds I was hoping to see in CR. But I was not that lucky. It is such a sweet bird.

I´m wondering…did you come to the meeting in time??

I visited the post you gave me the link to. And commented there.


Müge March 27, 2011 at 9:51 am

Great photos dear Larry! I hope your burrowing owls will reproduce this year 🙂


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