I was really hoping to photograph Burrowing Owls at the Salton Sea on a recent trip to the Southern California desert. I have photographed Barred, Snowy, Short-eared, Long-eared and Northern Saw-whet Owls but had never seen the photogenic little Burrowing Owl. So on a trip to an area where these owls can be found they were at the top of my list.
Burrowing Owls live in underground burrows and unlike most owls hunt during the day. They can be found during daylight hours but you have to look at the ground (or maybe on a fence post) to spot them not up in the air like most birds.
I had seen reports of Burrowing Owls on and near the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Refuge. So on our visit to the Palm Springs area my wife and I drove about 90 minutes to the refuge headquarters looking for these little guys. We didn’t have much luck at first looking on our own. Help was needed! During a lunch break at the refuge Visitor Center I asked a volunteer where we might find some Burrowing Owls. She pointed us to three nearby locations and we were ecstatic to find the owls at the first location. You really have to look carefully to spot them. They are very small and well camouflaged for the dirt areas where they live.
These photos were taken as we drove down a dirt road between farm fields. The owls were right off the edge of the road next to irrigation and drainage ditches runinng along the road. In some cases they were standing next to their burrows. They didn’t seem to mind us rolling down the window and snapping some photos. I got these closeup photos with a 400 mm lens on my Nikon Z6ii camera shot from the car. It was almost like the little owls were posing proudly next to their homes (burrows) as we made several passes down the road.