|Photo: Kathie Brown|
|Photo by Floris van Breugel|
|photo by Lineatus - dailykos.com|
This above shot is or was common site around many of the cities and small towns around Imperial Valley. This photo I believe was taken somewhere around the Salton Sea, perhaps near Calipatria or Nyland. Storms drains and other culverts are great places to watch for these entertaining little guys.
|Photo by Kathie Brown|
Parking Lot Burrowing Owls by Kathie Brown
The above photo was taken in Pima County Arizona, but is also illustrative of what could be seen in times past in and around Imperial Valley towns and cities. The attached link above has more photos of the parking lot habitat.
|Photo by Southwest Birders (Bob & Mary)|
Somewhere near the Salton Sea near New River
and Brandt Road.
|2010 Photograph by JOSELITO VILLERO|
My most favourite place to walk around and view them was at the Imperial Valley College campus grounds. The last visit I made there was in the year 2000. Burrows were everywhere, especially under concrete sidewalks in between the buildings and out near parking lots. Apparently the Owls never went to University to study about their prime habitats and where they SHOULD ONLY be found living. While I'm in favour of seeing the Owls out in the wild with natural settings, I have no problem with them adapting and actually thriving among humans, since we're not exactly going away any time soon. Good for the Owls. The little birds are feisty and protective of their burrow territory and I remember seeing them fly up from the ground and attack the backs of a student's head if the student ventured a short cut through the School landscape from the parking area to the Student Union quad area. Back on September 10 2010 in the LA Times, there was a disturbing article about about the major decline in Imperial Valley which has the largest California population of Burrowing Owls. Here are some very important quotes from that piece:
"An alarming decline in the number of burrowing owls in the Imperial Valley -- a Southern California agricultural area that had been considered a stronghold for the species -- has prompted calls for an immediate inquiry by state wildlife authorities."
"Surveys conducted by the Imperial Irrigation District show the burrowing owl population has dropped from about 5,600 pairs in the early 1990s to 4,879 pairs in 2007, and 3,557 pairs in 2008."
For me this is bothersome because these feisty little birds were thick as flies within city limits and so habitat loss wasn't exactly the issue. Seriously, in the quotes below it states that urban development has brought about habitat loss. NOT, in my 30+ years of traveling down there on a weekly basis, urban & agricultural development have always increased their expansion. I know I know, it's not ecologically kool to say that, but that is nevertheless my observation. However something else may be as the article made important mention:
"Statewide, the burrowing owl has been decreasing because of habitat loss by urban development, elimination of rodents it feeds on, pesticides, predation by domestic animals, vehicle strikes, collisions with wind turbines and shooting."
"Most of California's remaining breeding pairs of burrowing owls are concentrated in Imperial Valley, an area that makes up roughly 2.5% of the state's land, Miller said. "We still don't know exactly what is causing the declines in the Imperial Valley," he said, "but loss of suitable foraging areas from fallowing of agricultural fields due to water transfers and ground squirrel eradication programs may play a role."
Clearly some things could be eliminated as a possible cause for the Burrowing Owl decline down in the Imperial Valley if the L.A. Times article is true. As I've stated previously above, they were always thick as flies for decades down in Imperial Valley, so predation by feral or domestic cats and/or other animals, while certainly possible at times, to me would not be an issue. Their populations have been thick for decades down there and the past three or four years of decline if true would not really make much of a difference to me. Once again, these birds are feisty and defend territory fiercely. They certainly are not afraid to dive bomb the biggest and worst predator on Earth (Humans), so why would a bunch of Kitties suddenly be an issue ? No doubt they have been dive bombing cats or any other animal who get too close to the Den entrance and have successfully done so all along.
|(Photo by: Kevin Cole)|
|Photo: Megan Lorenz / Rex Features|
|Photo by Bruce Henrickson|
Army mobilizes to increase Burrowing Owl habitat in Oregon
|Photo by Bruce Henrickson|
Speaking personally, I don't think it would be all that tough to find raw salvage materials from which to construct such artificial dens. This would be a fun project for anyone with the right type of open landscape. Especially land that is too tough to develop or, garden or planting of any trees because of the hard rocky ground like I had on one knoll on my old place. It would take some work with a long steel or iron digging bar , but I think the rewards would be worth it and the exercise and experience worth while from a health standpoint. Involving your kids would also go along way in appreciation which is radically lacking in today's modern society. Reading about something does NOT take the place of actual experience. I think the decline of the Burrowing Owls in Imperial Valley, if true, the experts are going to reassess what is believed to be the problem. Off hand they could interview people (especially old timers) who actually live down there as opposed to what official outdated text books and short sighted periodic field trips lead them to believe. Not only should the Industrial Ag Business products be looked into, but also the Ground Squirrel eradication programs by means of poison bates from the Imperial Irrigation District who have a sort of hate relationship for anything that would disrupt their precious irrigation canal banks.
Certainly the Owls don't mind the supposedly unnatural settings they are not supposed to prefer, like artificial unnatural man-made constructs over the abandoned ground squirrel dens in out of the way wide open spaces. This doesn't by any stretch mean that no one short rally support for protecting historical colony habitats. They should. But it's nice to know the Burrowing Owls are not as sensitive as other wildlife who find it impossible to adapt to human intrusion. Of course, fortunately the Owls never went to University where such habitat legends etched in stone are taught. Fortunately for their own survival, they don't know they are not supposed to adapt well around human activity. Pssst, don't no one tell these little Owls that.
Further Reader References of Interest