Zanjero Park Burrowing Owl spring update

by Stacy Burleigh
OwlWatch Coordinator
Hi Everyone!
Greg Clark, Burrowing Owl Project Coordinator for Wild at Heart, introduces the ten burrowing owls to be released into Zanjero Park, Gilbert.

Greg Clark, Burrowing Owl Project Coordinator for Wild at Heart, introduces the ten burrowing owls to be released into Zanjero Park, Gilbert, Fall 2011.

I apologize for being way overdue in giving you an update on the owls at Zanjero. With that said,  I can’t go into too much detail right now but in short we have two pairs in full courtship mode, each madly prepping one or more burrows as a nest burrow. The males are also getting very protective starting to dive bomb dogs being walked along the sidewalk.

The pairs are 90X,  banded as female but actually a male, and a local female – their territory encompassing the whole east-side burrows. The other pair is the local pair that came in together back in October at 15/16. This female was not seen for 2 months-don’t know if she left or just stayed unseen in the burrow for all that time.
Three weeks ago I finished up supplemental feeding the owls with frozen mice. 90X is still looking for them when I am doing the pellet counts. Lots of insects out there, though, and an occasionally rodent.
Speaking of the pellet counts I am looking for someone to take on that project for me. It would require a once a week commitment, a day of your choice other than Wednesday when we do the monitoring. It takes me a good 2 to 2-1/2 hours to complete. Dissecting the pellets on the spot as you see and record them.  Plus some minor computer data entry. It could be done any time of the day allowing for good light. It could also be divided up between two people but you both would have to be out there at the same time. I would train you and do it with you until you are feeling confident about it. If you have any other questions, let me know.
Happy Owling!

Zanjero Park Burrowing Owl project update

by Stacy Burleigh
OwlWatch Coordinator
Desert Rivers Audubon, in partnership with the Town of Gilbert and Wild at Heart raptor rescue, installed a burrowing owl habitat at Zanjero Park, Gilbert, AZ (Lindsay Rd. & 202 Fwy.), Fall 2011. Project made possible by a grant from TogetherGreen.

Desert Rivers Audubon, in partnership with the Town of Gilbert and Wild at Heart raptor rescue, installed a burrowing owl habitat at Zanjero Park, Gilbert, AZ (Lindsay Rd. & 202 Fwy.), Fall 2011. Project made possible by a grant from TogetherGreen.

At the end of October the morning monitoring group began picking up and examining pellets at the burrows to confirm what the owls are eating. A trend of insects and not rodents has been established. Being next to agricultural fields,  it was expected for rodents to dominate their diet. At first we wondered if the farmer was putting down a rodentcide. Greg Clark recently discovered a researcher, in the Imperial Valley where 70% of California’s burrowing owls reside, who found only .2 % of pellets contain rodents. His explanation is that the flood irrigation eliminates rodents. Maybe this is what is happening here as well.

Not knowing if insects could sustain our remaining 5 owls through the winter, I was convinced to do a short-term supplementary feeding of frozen white mice. I began this on January 16th. Greg and I decided we should learn something from doing this as well.  I first wanted a basic question answered – how long will it take a mouse to be regurgitated? Answer: 2 to 3 days. Greg suspected that the owls were not regurgitating all of their pellets at the burrows and if so, we thus were not seeing all that they eat. This has turned out to indeed be the case. Only a small percentage of the white mice pellets are showing up. Some weeks more than others. And those that we do find are a combination of mouse and insects, sometimes very packed with insect parts. I am feeling better that they are finding insects in the winter.
Please join us  Saturday, February 23rd from 8 to 11 am at Zanjero Park for a Volunteer Clean Up Day.

Please join us Saturday, February 23, 2013 from 8 to 11 am at Zanjero Park for a Volunteer Clean Up Day.

Now onto the owls themselves. 90X is her usual, confident self residing at #50, although of late she can be seen all the way down to #37 in the afternoon. This is due to the fact, I surmise, that 88X has not been on site since 1/9 and #37-46 was her “territory”.  No signs of predation in the park this time as was the case with the last two owls. The female of the local pair at #15-16 has not been seen since 1/9 either but because she is so secretive and because it has been so cold I’m not completely convinced she still is not there. The really AWESOME news is the release site local owl who I had started to suspect was male has joined 90X at #49-50.  Last week a regular park walker and the evening monitoring group saw them together at #50. Courting behavior was going on and the male has been named Whitebeard. (He really extends his white chin feathers very long when doing a courting display). This morning we watched Whitebeard come out of #49 and 90X out of #50. If you go out to see them Whitebeard flies easily if approached too close.

A decision on whether more owls will be relocated to Zanjero this Spring is still being reflected upon. Greg Clark is waiting to hear the information the farmer has, how stable the food supply is, and how many migrants will arrive on site in February into early March.

Please join us Saturday, February 23, 2013, 4pm, Zanjero Park, Gilbert for OwlWalk & Talk. Part of the Arizona SciTech Festival:

Please join us Saturday, February 23, 2013, 4pm, Zanjero Park, Gilbert for OwlWalk & Talk. Part of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Happy Owling!

Wrap-up of the highlights of Zanjero’s Burrowing Owls for 2012

by Stacy Burleigh
OwlWatch Coordinator

Zanjero Park Burrowing Owl of 86X photo by Rick Inskeep.

Zanjero Park Burrowing Owl of 86X photo by Rick Inskeep

Even though we hoped all ten owls would stay on site, the owls have the choice of staying or leaving. At least they were alive to make that choice thanks to the efforts of many of you, Greg Clark, and Wild at Heart’s burrowing owl relocation program. And then as always with all wildlife whether in urban or in more wild areas, there is the circle of life.

It was just April 28th that we released the 5 males and 5 females from the acclimatization tent! The first owl up the hill to the burrows from the release site was a male…was it the “Grinch” aka the ring leader in the unsuccessful escape attempt from the tent a month earlier?? He only stays onsite for a couple days.

Just eleven days later we had our first local owl show up! We immediately knew he was male as he wasted no time mating with banded female 88X. They established a nest in #39. We named him “Palemale” as he was a beautiful light-colored owl.

On day twelve, banded female 86X makes her way up the hill and establishes her residency around burrows #21-24. She becomes our most dependably-seen owl, one we can count on to easily show the public at our monthly “Owl Walk and Talks”.

By May 22nd, all five banded males and 2 banded females have left the site. We obviously do not know why they left but I suspect it was a combination of availability of food, interaction dynamics at the release site, and the trials and tribulations of being celebrities. The third female who stayed was 90X. She tried to come up to the hill burrows but Palemale kept her to the release site.

Stacy models Desert Rivers Audubon's 2013 t-shirt, available at our upcoming events.

Stacy models Desert Rivers Audubon’s 2013 t-shirt, available at our upcoming events.

On June 27th, we witnessed our own scene from a nature show, when Palemale defended 88X and his nest from a coyote. He chased, screeched, and dive bombed the coyote relentlessly. The coyote still almost got 88X when she flew too low towards the coyote and it lunged straight up only missing her by inches!

Two days later during the June “Owl Walk and Talk”, we were perplexed by Palemale’s absence, but excited to witness a nestling coming out of #39. This excitement was short lived as Palemale continued to be absent in the days following. Since both the mate and nestlings are dependent on the male bringing food at this critical stage of rearing young, I knew our nestling(s) did not have a chance of survival. (I surmised that Palemale so exhausted himself that evening he was probably more susceptible to predation).

July 4th not only brought fireworks directly across the street from Zanjero Park, but also brought a second local owl to the site. This owl was very skittish and hung out adjacent to 86X at #23-24. October 3rd was the last time we saw this local owl. I was pretty concerned about the effect the fireworks would have on the owls, but thanks to volunteers talking to firework watchers they managed fine.

With Palemale gone, 90X is seen up the hill for the first time. She immediately starts hanging out with 88X that begins a cozy relationship between the two. (Is 90X a misbanded male or is mounting and lovey-dovey behavior between females normal in the non-breeding period??). Today you can find 90X at #50 and 88X usually at #39-44.

July 11th brings our first local pair at #57-58. They stayed at the park until August 30th.

With all the release site burrows now available for occupancy, another new local owl finds that area to its liking on July 17th.   Ninety-nine percent of the time it can be seen standing on the edge of the pipe of burrow #74.

This photo of Palemale is by Josh McClain.

This photo of Palemale is by Josh McClain.

Shortly after the local pair leaves at #57-58 another local owl comes in and takes up residence in burrow #60 on September 5th.  We nicknamed him/her “Angry Eyes”. If he/she had lasers in those eyes we would have been incinerated in pretty quick order, even at the distance that we monitor the owls from!

On the evening of October 3rd, we get a really nice surprise to find a new local pair doing LOTS of mating behavior. And…he is large in comparison to the female. They took up residence at #15-16.  Another cool thing about these two is we can watch them leave to hunt every evening shortly after sunset. (We never see the other owls leave to hunt in either the morning or evening). The male is always out of the burrow first and once the sun has set he can often be seen and heard telling her it is time to go. We have to keep our distance, though, as it will delay her coming out and he will grow impatient and leave without her.

On October 24th, 86X is not seen for first time ever. I was so concerned that the next night my husband and I came back out and unfortunately found evidence of owl predation (splattered owl feathers in one spot) found in the  rocks below burrow hill at east end of park. Two weeks later Greg Clark was out with some students looking at owl pellets and found an owl carcass. Greg suspected great horned owl.

Zanjero Park, 3785 S. Lindsay Rd., Gilbert

Zanjero Park, 3785 S. Lindsay Rd., Gilbert

Greg was surprised that the pellets showed the owls were eating mainly insects. Being so close to agricultural fields, it is expected they would be eating more rodents. On November 21st, the morning monitoring group began picking up pellets to determine if Greg’s first observation is a true trend.  So far the trend has continued. As insects lessen with winter, if the owls are not able to switch to rodents, they may be forced to leave. (Is the farmer putting down rodentcide?)

On Nov 28th, we found a second owl predation down again in the lower rocks below burrow hill.  Both Angry Eyes and #15-16 female were not spotted that night.  Two nights later, #15-16 female was seen. Angry Eyes has not been seen since. L

So as the new year of 2013 begins we have 5 owls in residence at Zanjero’s Burrowing Owl Habitat-3 locals (local pair #15-16, release site owl) and two banded transplants (female 88X and female 90X).  Please join us at our “Owl Walk and Talk” the 4th Saturday of each month to get the latest scoop and an up close view of the owls through a scope. Please check DRAS’s website calendar for start times as it changes.  If you would like to be involved in the citizen science aspect of the project monitoring the owls we are out every Wednesday alternating each week between morning and evening.

Happy New Year Everyone! Thank you to all the volunteers who helped with Zanjero’s Burrowing Owls in 2012!

What we accomplished this past year and our plans for the future

By Krys Hammers,
Desert Rivers Audubon

Dear Desert Rivers Audubon Members and Friends,

Krys Hammers (l), President, Desert Rivers Audubon, with Greg Clark of Wild at Heart and feather friend.

At the end of each year, we assess what we accomplished in the past year, and make plans for the future. We also make this appeal to our friends to consider giving Desert Rivers a special gift above and beyond your membership dues.

Since membership dues do not begin to cover operation costs, we depend upon corporate gifts, book sales, recycling of aluminum cans, raffle income, and our year-end appeal to help keep Desert Rivers financially healthy and moving forward. In these tough economic times, charitable giving for conservation is on the decrease, and yet the needs remain.

Desert Rivers has continued to actively work to fulfill our mission: to educate and inspire our community on birds, wildlife and their habitats.

Last year, Desert Rivers engaged the public and its members with the following programs, all of which are free.

We received a Together Green grant to partner with Wild at Heart to build 100 burrows for Burrowing Owls at Zanjero Park. The burrows were built in Oct, 2011 and 10 owls were released in April. Again this spring we will build a tent to temporarily house another 10 owls. After 30 days they will be released to the area.

We’ve recently hosted our first annual Tour de Bird, a tour of urban bird habitats that demonstrate how everyone can help birds in their own backyard.

The Field Trips program had over 400 attendees to locations around town and the state. These trips are an important way we introduce new friends to birding and the conservation message.

Thanks to volunteers, who donated almost 600 hours, we’ve continued our monthly public birdwalk programs at Chandler’s Veterans Oasis Park and the Gilbert Riparian Preserve. These birdwalks help engage our community with an appreciation for Arizona birds and conservation message. Every child leaves with a gift to help them continue to appreciate the birds around them.

Joy Dingley hosts her Early Birds Club for children 7 – 13. These enthusiastic children have not only watched birds, they have drawn birds, listened to them, and studied their habitat and diets.

With our preserve partners, we hosted field trips for a group of blind children who learned to appreciate nature by hearing, touch and smell. We also provided a special morning program for the Hope Kids, a charity for families with children dealing with life-threatening conditions.

Our regular monthly programs at the Gilbert Community Center have attracted and inspired members and guests on a variety of topics of concern and interest.

Our top-notch newsletter highlights the happenings at our chapter, as well as provides in-depth information about conservation and wildlife topics.

This season, from September 2012 through May 2013, we will continue with these programs. We will also offer additional educational materials, and enhance our Audubon at Home Award Program, which recognizes people who have created healthy bird habitats. At this time we are specifically in need of a utility trailer where we can store and transport all of our equipment to events.

We truly appreciate your support to ensure Desert Rivers continues to offer these programs.  All of your gift will be used locally by Desert Rivers and is tax-deductible. Thank you.

Join us at The Hummingbird Habitat, Chandler, Second Saturdays

Desert Rivers Audubon continues a second year in the Hummingbird Habitat at Desert Breeze Park, 660 N. Desert Breeze Parkway, Chandler, as part of the City of Chandler Park & Recreation Department’s Adopt-a-Park program.

Volunteers with Joe Tyler’s sculpture at the Hummingbird Habitat at desert Breeze Park, a Recognized Bird Habitat.

Every second Saturday of the month, volunteers gather to tend the Hummingbird Habitat (contact Anne Koch, Volunteer Coordinator, for seasonal morning hours, Our next date at the Habitat is Saturday, October 13, 2012, 8-10am.

The Hummingbird Habitat, established in 1999 from a water retention area in the back corner of Desert Breeze Park, was designed by Landscape Architect Dennis Peltz. It features art installations by Joe Tyler and the Chandler High School ceramics class.

Desert Rivers Audubon volunteers, recognized by the City of Chandler for donating

Victor Peterson (r) instructs Ryan in proper pruning technique to keep branches out of the Habitat pathway. The Hummingbird Habitat is Ryan’s national Junior Honor Society project.

over 100 hours of work in the habitat in one year, replace specimen plants, weed, water, prune and mulch this small walled garden. Long-time as well as volunteers completely new to Desert Rivers have taken over tree trimming from the city in order to promote a shade canopy attractive to birds. Volunteers also harvest and reuse mulch in the habitat to promote Abert’s Towhee habitat as well as restore nutrients to the soil and prevent irrigation evaporation. The Hummingbird Habitat is part of Desert Rivers Audubon’s Bird Habitat Recognition program.

Desert Rivers Audubon is seeking donations of native wildflower seeds.

A key bird-friendly garden on the Tour de Bird October 27, 2012, volunteers will add more hummingbird-attracting plants as well as seed wildflowers for spring blooms this fall in the Habitat. Donations of Chuparosa, Desert Milkweed, Wooly Butterfly Bush (Buddleta marrubifola) and wildflower seeds from Desert Marigold, Penstemon species, Desert Bluebell, California/Mexican/Arizona Poppies and Desert Lupine would be appreciated. Contact Krys Hammers, , to arrange delivery.

“Create a Healthy Backyard Ecosystem,” Tuesday, October 9th

Please join Desert Rivers Audubon for “Create a Healthy Backyard Ecosystem” with Ron Dinchek
October 9, 2012, 7pm
130 North Oak Street
Gilbert, AZ 85233
Ron Dinchek, instructor in the Life Sciences Department at  Mesa Community College and and designer of  the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden there, will talk about creating a web for a sustainable/healthy backyard ecosystem to promote birding & enjoy nature. His interests also include ethno-botany, environmental biology and natural history of the Southwest.
We’ll talk about Desert Rivers Audubon’s Habitat Recognition Program as well as our upcoming tour of backyard habitats and bird-attrcting gardens, Tour de Bird. Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and discover volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon.

FREE. Light refreshments served.

Tour de Bird Volunteer Orientation October 17, 7-9pm, Bass Pro Shops, Mesa, #TourdeBird

Join us at Bass Pro Shops, Community Room, 1133 N. Dobson Rd., Mesa, October 17, 2012, 7–9pm for our Tour de Bird Volunteer Orientation.  Tour de Bird is Desert Rivers Audubon’s wildlife habitat garden tour. It highlights both private backyard ecosystems designed to benefit birds and other wildlife, as well as public gardens demonstrating support of our bird habitat recognition program and migration corridors. Tour de Bird is made possible by a grant from Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Education Fund in partnership with the City of Chandler.

Fairy Duster attracts hummingbirds

We’ll go over the tour in general & locations specifically. We’re meeting in the Community Room.

We need:

Garden Guides: Guide visitors through public & private gardens (orientation/documentation provided). If you love gardening, we’ll give you a description of the garden you choose to volunteer in Chandler, Gilbert or Scottsdale. The garden owner will be there to help you, too.

Ticket Takers: Take & sell garden tour tickets (instructions & support provided).

Older children may volunteer with their parents.

We have Service Learning credits for Maricopa County Community College Students. Check with the Mesa Community College Service Learning and Chandler-Gilbert Community College Service Learning Center for details.

Older children are welcome to volunteer with a parent, guardian or responsible adult.

National Honor Society and other High School Service Program volunteers also welcome.

Contact our Volunteer Coordinator Anne Koch, or sign up here.

Thank you for your support–we can’t do it without you!