Zanjero Park Burrowing Owl spring update

by Stacy Burleigh
OwlWatch Coordinator
stacymb@cox.net
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!

‘Second Chance for Wild Wings’ with Liberty Wildlife, part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, March 12

Join us Tuesday, March 12, 7:00 pm, Gilbert Community Center, 130 North Oak Street, Gilbert for Second Chance for Wild Wings as volunteers with Liberty Wildlife demonstrate the resilience and care required of injured Arizona wildlife.

Bring kids and cameras and be ready for raptor stare-downs.

Bring kids and cameras and be ready for raptor stare-downs.

Bring kids & cameras as we visit with some of Arizona’s most charismatic birds (which may include eagles, owls or hawks).
Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and discover volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon.
FREE. Light refreshments served.

Feb2012DRAS2Part of the Arizona Scitech Festival.

Spearheaded by Arizona Science Center, the Arizona Technology Council Foundation, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona and over 350 organizations statewide, the Arizona SciTech Festival, held annually in February and March celebrates the scientific wonders, resources, and opportunities in our state and their potential global impact.

Join Desert Rivers Audubon for the Great Backyard Bird Count February 15-18, 2013

Kick-off Saturday, February 16th @ Gilbert Riparian Preserve

Join Desert Rivers Audubon at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, 2757 E. Guadalupe Road Gilbert, to kick-off the Great Backyard Bird Count, Saturday, February 16, 2013, 8am-12 noon.

The goal of The Great Backyard Bird Count is to watch birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count then enter tallies at the Count’s website. Watch live data coming in and look up your area by zip code to see the Count progress in your city. Anyone can participate; it’s free. Participants can count anywhere they wish, not just in backyards, but in neighborhoods, parks, nature centers, or anywhere they see birds.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada and sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited.

“This year’s count will give us a whole new perspective as sightings pour in from around the globe in real time,” said Marshall Iliff at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Millions of people encounter birds every day all over the world. Imagine what scientists will learn if each one of us shares observations from our own area!

“Once again, we’ll be able to coach East Valley residents in their bird identification skills Saturday during our free Family Birdwalk at Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Saturday, February 16, 2013, 8am-noon,” added Eileen Kane, Communications Director, Desert Rivers Audubon Society. “We hope to see those citizen scientists who helped us last year as well as new folks interested in knowing more about their neighborhood wildlife. Kids can count, too!”

During the 2012 count, participants reported 17.4 million bird observations on 104,000 checklists.

Keep watch for American Goldfinch.

“The GBBC is an ideal opportunity for young and old to connect with nature by discovering birds and to participate in a huge science project,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “This year, we hope people on all seven continents, oceans, and islands, will head out into their neighborhoods, rural areas, parks, and wilderness to further our understanding of birds across the hemispheres.”

Part of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

‘Arizona Raptors: Off and On the Radar’ part of the Arizona SciTech Festival, February 12

Join us Tuesday, February 12, 7:00 pm, Gilbert Community Center, 130 North Oak Street, Gilbert as Richard Glinski, editor of Raptors of Arizona, discusses Arizona Raptors: Off and On the Radar.

Glinski, Park Supervisor, Desert Outdoor Center at Lake Pleasant, Maricopa County Parks & Recreation Department, shares stories about and his passion for conserving the eagles, hawks, kites, and owls of Arizona.

With over 40 species of birds of prey calling Arizona home, there will be ample time to admire these amazing raptor in photographs and descriptions of personal encounters.

Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and discover volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon.
FREE. Light refreshments served.

Part of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

Join us as we celebrate the Great Backyard Bird Count at Gilbert Riparian Preserve with the Arizona SciTech Festival February 16: http://azscitechfest.org/events/great-backyard-bird-count-gilbert-riparian-preserve

Join us as we celebrate the Great Backyard Bird Count at Gilbert Riparian Preserve with the Arizona SciTech Festival February 16, 2013, 8 am-noon.

For those who are not familiar with the Arizona SciTech Festival, this annual five-week festivity celebrates the scientific wonders, resources, and opportunities in our state and their potential global impact. The Festival integrates its interactive messaging in all corners of the state to all ages by collaborating with Arizona’s cultural, educational, research and business communities to explore the vital roles of science, engineering and technology in our own environments, across our nation and the world.

S3C: STEM Student Science Cafes, science fun for tweens & teens first Tuesdays, Bookmans, Mesa

In partnership with the Arizona SciTech Festival & Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange, Mesa, Desert Rivers Audubon Stem Science Cafe FB2hosts monthly Science Cafes for Middle & High School Students on the first Tuesday of the month.
STEM Student Science Cafe (“S3C”) is an event that takes place in a casual setting; is open to Middle & High Schools Students, their parents & siblings; and features an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Learn something new, ask questions, and meet other science fans!

Run by students for students

Lori Whipple, Mesa Community Relations, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

“Run by students for the students, we love the new direction the Bookmans Science Cafe is taking,” said Lori Whipple, Mesa Community Relations, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. “Our continuing partnership with Desert Rivers Audubon and The Arizona SciTech Festival will ensure that STEM is something to be celebrated year round.”

“We’re looking forward to having the students moderate and choose topics they would like to discuss with a scientist or engineer,” said Desert Rivers Audubon Communications Director Eileen Kane, “instead of having a science cafe done by adults for or at students.”

“Stuff About the Universe” Tuesday, February 5

ASU physicist Subir Sabharwal talks with students about the cosmos with volunteer student moderator Emma.

ASU physicist Subir Sabharwal talks with students about the cosmos with volunteer student moderator Emma.

Our pre-Festival cafe features ASU Physics Dept. cosmologist Subir Sabharwal discussing “Stuff About the Universe,” with middle school volunteer moderator, Emma, Tuesday, February 5, 2013, 6:30pm, Bookmans Mesa, 1056 S. County Club Dr., Mesa, 480-835-0505.

 “Citizen Science”  Tuesday, March 5

Gail Morris will let students know how they can participate in Monarch butterfly tagging.

Gail Morris will let students know how they can participate in Monarch butterfly tagging.

During the Arizona SciTech Festival, March 5, 2013, 6:30pm and again at Bookmans Mesa, we’ll feature the topic of “Citizen Science” with Eric Proctor, Arizona Game and Fish Department and Gail Morris of MonarchWatch and the Southwest Monarch Study. Eric will highlight the many citizen science projects that support our understanding of our unique desert ecosystems and how you can help. Gail will discusses her work tagging and tracking Monarch butterflies.

Kids’ vote counts, Tuesday, April 9

Our next STEM Student Science Cafe topic, April 9, 2013, will be decided by the participants in the two previous S3C events.

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

by Stacy Burleigh
OwlWatch Coordinator
stacymb@cox.net

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!

Dedicated citizen scientist Tom Cole talks Gilbert’s Neely ponds January 8th

TomColebookTuesday, January 8, 2013, 7 pm, Tom Cole, author of The Intersection: Seventeen Years of Bird Processing on One Street Corner of the World , reviewed here, joins Desert Rivers Audubon to discuss his long-term citizen science study of Gilbert’s Neely Ponds over the course of 17 years at Gilbert Community Center, 130 North Oak Street, Gilbert, AZ 85233.

Cole, creator of educational computer games such as Preposition Pinball, made over a thousand trips to

Birder From Maricopa blogger Tommy J. DeBardeleben has experience with Gilbert’s Neely Ponds.

the intersection of Elliot & Cooper Roads to study a small, urban habitat. In the course of his study, Cole recorded over 13,000 birds. Learn more about the health of our East Valley urban habitats and the motivation behind a dedicated amateur scientist and educator.

Come early to browse our mobile book shop, visit, and discover volunteer opportunities with Desert Rivers Audubon.

FREE. Light refreshments served.