Kilroy

I cannot believe we are practically out of August already. Apologize for being out of pocket for a lot of this month (especially late on responding to everyone’s comments). I mentioned previously that I was a couple of months away from our big Halloween event and the to-do list for that would run a new printer cartridge dry. Now we are only 32 days away and I certainly didn’t get halfway way through the list. Truth is… this is par for course so it isn’t as bad as it reads. I did manage to take this weekend off to do some very productive birding with my brother Ron. He came down and we attended an Illinois Ornithological Society Shorebird Event at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge – about 45 minutes from where I live. All I can say to that is b-r-a-v-o. My shorebird identification skills are in the upper echelons of craptastic. Sure, the easy ones I have down, it’s the other 43,245 that drive me bonkers – long legs, brownish, tannish, whitish, greyish, predominantly head down ass up and dancing around the edge of water – know what that gets you in the reference manuals – let me tell you DIDDLEY. Fortunately, the IOS guides know their stuff and helped us spot and ID everything Chautauqua had to offer to the tune of 16 new birds for the year with a number of them lifers. Ron had a few of my new ones already, but he also added a bunch. Ended up finding a new bird on a quick outing the next day to give me 281 for the Average Year (link here – note NOT UPDATED YET). Ron thinks I am in striking distance for 300, we’ll have to see how the remaining months go – seems like a loooong way to go.

… and while we are on the topic of long way to go, here is today’s featured feathered friend!

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

Pretty cool huh!?! It is actually a new lifer for me – a bird that I have had in my top 5 target list for at least the last 10 years. Obviously I will need to figure out a new target to replace the gap left from officially checking this bird off while on our January trip to Texas. Wait, maybe you haven’t figure out what feathered creature I’m talking about – let me take a Frogger stroll across a surprisingly busy road.

Hit the jump and I’ll get you closer to the castle, I mean the bird.

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

Ah, there we go, much better. Now that we’ve cut through a majority of the rain sheets and put The Beast in a workable distance you can at least make out it is an Owl. Fortunately, it is a rather unique looking species so that is the bare minimum you need to confirm the ID as a Burrowing Owl. You might be thrown off a bit as it was not found on the ground, rather sitting in, what I believe, is an irrigation pipe.

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

I have to thank a group of birders from Chicago for alerting us to the presence of this Owl. As another “small world” example, Linda and I traveled to Quinta Mazatlan (McAllen TX) to hunt down a rare bird that was lurking on their grounds. When we pulled into their parking lot, we noticed a group of birders focused on a couple of Hawks circling above. Grabbed my camera and jumped out of the RV (note to self, wait until Linda gets the vehicle stopped next time). Quickly learned it was a new Hawk for me – ooooh, foreshadowing hehehe. Long story short, learned they were on a guided trip from Chicago. Linda was able to track down their blog and where we saw a buried sentence claiming they missed seeing the wintering Burrowing Owl at the Progresso Sod Farms in Hidalgo, TX. Whaaaaat? One sec, let’s take a few more paces closer.

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

Linda didn’t need to ask, she knew we would be on a mission the following day. First task was figuring out where the hell that was. I had visions of a large field with soup cans planted in rows. Turns out, although it is still in ebird, it really USED to be called the Progresso Sod Farms. It is now being sold off as a new subdivision. The only clue was the irrigation culvert mentioned in the post. We drove all around that area and couldn’t find any culvert, much less one with an Owl in it. Frustrated by the miss and the annoying rain we headed back on the main road … press pause for one second while walk a little closer to our new wise friend – ahhh, much better.

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

Not far down the road, we passed the scene captured in the first picture. Something immediately clicked – I was looking for what we call culverts – ground drainage, maybe they meant the larger pipes we see from time to time while visiting southern Texas. Shouted our secret “stop, there’s a bird I need” word and exclaimed “I think I saw it!” Linda, always the safety conscious one, decided better than stopping in the middle of a busy highway and found a place to pull to the side and let me out while she found a place to turn the RV around. I took some test shots per another of my golden rules “Get something in the tin and then work on improving it so you don’t miss the opportunity”. Sure looked like an Owl head to me, even in the rain.

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

Slowly I moved closer and closer, take a shot, foot zoom, take another shot, foot zoom until I was standing near the tall barbed wire topped fence just off the road. The cars flying by me were a bit unnerving, but this was a long hunted lifer. In case you are wondering, this Owl kept an eye on me the entire time – never once rising up so I could bring you a good look at the lower half of this Owl. It did look away briefly allowing me to get you one different angle. Then it quickly turned back to make sure I was keeping my distance. I tried, I really tried. For some reason I couldn’t get Monty Python out of my head.

ME: I am Brian and I’m on a sacred quest for the Burrowing Owl – can I come up and have a look?
OWL: Of course not! You are a birder pig
ME: Now look here, my good bird!
OWL: I don’t want to talk to you, no more, you empty-headed human, food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
ME: {I better go before it starts launching cows at me}

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

So there you have it, the Kilroy of the birding world. Out of pics, better stop the banter and get to some facts stat. The Burrowing Owl is more of a western half of the US and down into Central and South America resident. There is a healthy population in Florida. As the name suggests, they are ground dwellers preferring to hunt for rodents and insects during the day. Although they can dig their own burrows, they are more prone to leverage holes dug by other animals such as Prairie Dogs. Their brown feathering/pattern can make them difficult to spot in their dirt environments…or in this case a culvert. Not much else to offer on these Owls beyond the fact they are incredibly expressive birds. Do a Google search sometime and see all the cute pictures of their turned heads – this specimen…ehh, not so much ha!

Take it easy folks, see you again next month, granted the haunt work doesn’t get the best of me.

27 thoughts on “Kilroy”

    1. Thank you Tim! You just reminded me that I forgot to comment on those eyes – it absolutely looked like it was “mad dogging” me. You can tell from the photos, it didn’t matter which way I shifted, it kept those big yellow eyes directly on me. Was afraid he was going to open up a can of whoopass on me at any moment ha! As always, thanks for coming by and joining the conversation.

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    1. Yep, he had a perfect view for anyone wanting to storm his (or her) castle. Like Bard Owls, they will hunt in the daytime – I’ve even seen a Great Horned getting an afternoon snack before so they are not exclusively nocturnal, but you can always count on the Burrows to be visible during the daylight hours. Pretty sure Webster is going to add that word to their collection, use your definition and then put my picture by it! We are in my favorite season so no problems with having fun at the moment..just comes with a lot of sweat ha. Appreciate you dropping in CJ.

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    1. I bet I know exactly where that school is – we met a fellow birder on our trip to the Texas Gulf Coast and he told us about a guaranteed place to see the Burrowing Owls on a school playground. Small world! Things are going well, foregoing a lot of sleep at the moment, but it is a labor of love as I eagerly await for this time of year to arrive when I can show off the props we’ve been building all year…and they say life slows down in retirement ha. Have a great rest of your week Cheryl and thanks for dropping in.

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        1. Oh sorry, my brain got ahead of my typing. I meant to say I was in Texas complaining to another birder about not seeing the Burrowings down there and he told me to go to a particular school in Florida as a sure thing for tinning those Owls. I didn’t mean to imply it was in Texas – that was small world comment.

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    1. He definitely had that look as if it was the king of the castle …or more like king of the entire neighborhood. There wasn’t anything getting past his watch, that’s for sure. Linda’s superpower is getting me to and back out of my birding places. I’m usually too laser focused on the target to sweat the safety stuff and without her, I would definitely have a lot more close calls than I already do. Every once in a while she will invoke the “voice of reason”, but she’s grown to be quite accommodating. Ron considers her my secret birding weapon! Have a great rest of your week Sam!

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  1. He, or she, was certainly giving you the stink eye. Very sharp and penetrating eyes. Eyes that say “I could hunt you down if I wanted to and wasn’t four inches tall”. (think itty bitty bunny)

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    1. I had forgotten my holy hand grenade hehehehe. The whole time I was approaching it, I was thinking it was one of those Halloween props that follows you as you walk by – beyond the glance in the other direction in the single shot above, it pretty much kept its focus The Beast. I see your are still tinning birds on your vacation.

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  2. Unbelievable! I love these photos of this wonderful owl very, very much! I met the burrowing owls only twice but was looking for them for a long long time.

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    1. Same here, they’ve been on my top 5 hunt list for years and admittedly rather shocked when I found it. Didn’t give me much to go on, but good enough for the check! Thanks for dropping by Kaya – still thinking of you.

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  3. Good for you, Brian. Congratulations on spotting this very charismatic owl. I love how it peers above the top of the culvert and has you in its vision.

    On another note, I can completely relate to your struggle with shorebirds. “Craptastic” also fits my ID skills–great word.

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    1. Thank you Tanja. I think it was a tad perturbed I found it’s secret lair. I need to give my wife full credit for the “craptastic” word (although CJ above is trying to trademark it for royalties)- she coined it after we had traveled down to St. Louis to see a sculpture park there – apparently she wasn’t impressed hehehehe. Appreciate you dropping in and joining the conversation.

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    1. I definitely keep her laughing although I don’t think it is due to my humor hehehe. Not sure if you are up on your Monty Python movies, but pretty sure if I got much closer to its castle there would be catapulting of cows my way! Running out of days before the big event – hoping I get everything done (if only we could squeeze a few more hours out of each day! Thanks for dropping in Lisa – FYI, per you last post, I do all my Halloween prop planning/problem solving while I’m on my long runs.

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    1. Thank you! Guessing it wasn’t too pleased with the raining coming down and didn’t want to get its feathers wet just to give me a full view. Right with you on the cute factor. So many funny expression, but this one was having none of that with me ha. Appreciate you coming by.

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    1. Thank you! I wish I could have brought you a better perspective of the entire body of this rather cute Owl, but it was having none of it ha! Appreciate you dropping in and joining the conversation.

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