If photographing birds has taught me one thing it is to always keep your eyes open and be ready for the unexpected. It doesn’t always happen, in fact it rarely happens which leads to the term “unexpected” but on occasion ones diligence and patience pays off.
Today was one of those days. After a slow and uneventful morning looking for birds to photograph on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge I decided to pack it in and head home. The birds were there but just not cooperating for the camera.
One my way home from the refuge lady luck tipped her hand as I came across a rare find these days on the refuge, a burrowing owl perched on a fence post on refuge property. Burrowing owls aren’t exactly scarce in these parts. The region has plenty of them but the fascinating thing is they have been a rare find on the refuge since the refuge was covered in water after the devastating flood of 1983 which wiped out the entire refuge and inundated it under a vast sea of salt water from the rising great salt lake.
From what I have heard from refuge personnel and others who remember the pre-flood refuge, burrowing owls were present on parts of the refuge prior to the floods but really haven’t been seen much since then. I visit the refuge many times a week almost year round, year after year and this is the first sighting I can remember of a burrowing owl on the refuge.
I hope it is signs of things to come, the triumphant return of the burrowing owl to the refuge. My encounter today was only a brief one as the small owl posed for a couple quick photographs and then flew off and landed out in a field, giving hope it might be thinking about nesting in the area. I hope this isn’t the last I get to see of him and I will keep my eye out each time I pass the area it was spotted in, hoping for more signs of the return of the burrowing owls to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.