by Julian Meisler
One of the more iconic photos following the fires at Sears Point Ranch was that of a western burrowing owl standing amidst the blackened grassland near the Ralph Benson Center at the Baylands. The picture evoked images of recovery and resilience. On a simpler level, it also suggested that burrowing owls might be using some of the artificial burrows that Sonoma Land Trust, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and a whole lot of volunteers installed several years ago.
Burrowing owls frequent Sears Point and vicinity in the fall and winter, but depart prior to and during the breeding season. This wasn’t always the case and our intent with artificial burrow installation was to encourage the owls to nest on these protected lands.
Installations were made in two locations: The first was behind the Benson Center where we installed four burrows. From the looks of it, ground squirrels use the burrows more than owls, but the persistent presence of owls does mean that something in the area is attracting them. Someone needs to go out there with a pair of binoculars and see what’s going on. Interested? Let us know.
In the grasslands north of Highway 37, we also see owls regularly, but we are pretty sure the burrows are not usable due to leakage during rain and the associated filling with sediment, which keeps the entrances perpetually clogged. We now have some ideas on how to avoid this and, in September, we are going to pull the burrows and replace or repair them. We are currently advertising for interns to assist with this project, but we’re also going to need volunteers. If you are interested, please get in touch.
Read more about the artificial burrows at Sears Point
Julian Meisler is Sonoma Land Trust's Baylands program manager.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.