A friend and I went to Stow Lake to see if we could get a glimpse of the normally cooperative owls on Strawberry Hill. The fledglings have grown old enough to disperse and the parents were making themselves scarce so we struck out on Golden Gate Park owls. But much of bird watching is about what you see when you are waiting around for other things to happen, and last night was no exception. We had been tracking a female Redtail who was sitting near what we think is an active nest. The male arrived with a recently caught squirrel and she set off in pursuit to relieve him of his meal. He managed to escape long enough to perch and spend about 10 minutes dining on a nicely exposed branch. Once the female made up her mind, she stopped making her persistent yet quiet begging calls, and launched off her perch, diving toward the male with great intent. He fell over backwards trying to escape his larger and stronger partner and she took over what was left of the squirrel. Above, she relocates with her prize. The squirrel may be hard to recognize because it has been, err… rearranged.
Meanwhile, the male assumed his post overlooking Golden Gate Park as evening set in. We set off to see the Palace of Fine Arts Barn Owls and while parking near Crissy Field, I saw Ravens mobbing a Redtail in the darkness.
The Redtail had caught a pigeon just as night fell. I’ve seen them hunting into the evening hours before. I think their night vision is better than we might expect.
She kept an eye on the Ravens who never stopped mobbing her while she ate.
Feathers fly as the Redtail shifts position.
With a bulging crop, she relocates to another knoll about 30 feet away. Then after a short and comical run through the grass, the Redtail left the pigeon and departed.
My friend calls this scene a “pillow fight.” Any time a Cooper’s Hawk, Falcon, or Redtail catches avian prey… a “pillow fight” scene is inevitable.
We finally broke our owl drought when we wandered over to the Palace of Fine Arts. An interesting discovery was the cohabitation of the nest site. Barn Owls and Pigeons roosting together. I had wondered whether this was a smart option for the pigeons but it seems they are just large enough to be out of prey (and pillow fight) range.