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.

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