Mercey is known for its Long-eared Owls but in the summer the population thins out. The resident Barn Owls were in abundance though. I found 5 of them in the near 100 degree heat keeping their cool in this stand of trees.
Not many visitors this time of year... but they are thinking of raising the "birdwatching fee" to $25 from the present $5, because some folks have been staying over 5 hours staking out the owls. Most people there for the birds only linger an hour or so and I'm guessing the fee increase will keep a lot of them away.
The ghostly aeronauts are in full swing at the Palace of Fine Arts. Looks like the one nest we found in April (click here) has turned into three. I spent an hour and a half with the begging, clicking, chirping Barn Owls now residing in the rotunda.
This is a female who has several 4-5 week old chicks. Two of them have fallen from the nest and are now being cared for by WildCare. I happened to be involved in one of the rescues.(see the video below)
Below is video of a 4-5 week old chick that fell 40 feet from the nest. It seemed in good health and will either be re-nested or slow released with other young owls at a rehab center. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/26906312 w=398&h=531]
A friend and I went to Stow Lake to see if we could get a glimpse of the normally cooperative owls on Strawberry Hill. The fledglings have grown old enough to disperse and the parents were making themselves scarce so we struck out on Golden Gate Park owls. But much of bird watching is about what you see when you are waiting around for other things to happen, and last night was no exception. We had been tracking a female Redtail who was sitting near what we think is an active nest. The male arrived with a recently caught squirrel and she set off in pursuit to relieve him of his meal. He managed to escape long enough to perch and spend about 10 minutes dining on a nicely exposed branch. Once the female made up her mind, she stopped making her persistent yet quiet begging calls, and launched off her perch, diving toward the male with great intent. He fell over backwards trying to escape his larger and stronger partner and she took over what was left of the squirrel. Above, she relocates with her prize. The squirrel may be hard to recognize because it has been, err... rearranged.
Meanwhile, the male assumed his post overlooking Golden Gate Park as evening set in. We set off to see the Palace of Fine Arts Barn Owls and while parking near Crissy Field, I saw Ravens mobbing a Redtail in the darkness.
The Redtail had caught a pigeon just as night fell. I've seen them hunting into the evening hours before. I think their night vision is better than we might expect.
She kept an eye on the Ravens who never stopped mobbing her while she ate.
Feathers fly as the Redtail shifts position.
With a bulging crop, she relocates to another knoll about 30 feet away. Then after a short and comical run through the grass, the Redtail left the pigeon and departed.
My friend calls this scene a "pillow fight." Any time a Cooper's Hawk, Falcon, or Redtail catches avian prey... a "pillow fight" scene is inevitable.
We finally broke our owl drought when we wandered over to the Palace of Fine Arts. An interesting discovery was the cohabitation of the nest site. Barn Owls and Pigeons roosting together. I had wondered whether this was a smart option for the pigeons but it seems they are just large enough to be out of prey (and pillow fight) range.