By Tracey Taylor
The burrowing owls that make their home at César Chávez Park on the Berkeley Marina every year are back.
Patrick Hickey, who works out in the predawn hours most mornings at the park, says he has noticed a pair of the birds there for at least the past month.
“They sit right on the edge of the path perhaps three feet away. They always seem to flank the edge of the protected corner area,” he said. “They are quite small. They look at me but I say nothing and I keep moving. I think they realize I don’t want to mess with them. Or they are dangerously blasé!”
Western burrowing owls have been designated a “species of special concern” by the state of California, as their population has been declining.
To help protect them, the city of Berkeley collaborated with the Golden Gate Audubon Society and erected temporary fencing in 2009 at César Chávez Park to keep dogs and people out of the owls’ preferred roosting area along the shore. Docents are available at designated times to talk to visitors about the owls.
The owls can usually be found at the Marina, October through early April.
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