Burrowing owls come out to preen at Berkeley Marina

Burrowing owl by Greg Merritt

A burrowing owl near the Tom Bates/Gilman sports fields in Berkeley on Saturday Feb. 9. Photo: Greg Merritt

The Berkeley Marina’s much loved burrowing owls were out and about this weekend. Berkeleysider Greg Merritt caught this shot of one of them on Saturday afternoon. He said it was taken at the special fenced-off area near the Tom Bates/Gilman Sports Complex.

dozen volunteer docents from Golden Gate Audubon Society who help passersby spot and learn about the small population of Western burrowing owls who spend each winter at the marina.

As Illana DeBare reported for us this time last year, Western burrowing owls have been designated a “species of special concern” by the state of California, as their population has been declining. Local residents reported seeing as many as 15 owls at the Berkeley Marina a decade ago; last year just five were documented.

Local efforts have helped protect the owls and maintain their presence at the Marina. Spurred by Golden Gate Audubon activists, the city of Berkeley erected temporary fencing in 2009 to keep dogs and people out of the owls’ preferred roosting area along the shore. And in 2011, the city completed an art installation that serves as a kind of boundary during months when the owls are in residence.

The owls are usually at the Marina October through early April.

Burrowing owls and docents return to Berkeley Park [02.16.12]
How the predatory barn owl became Berkeley’s official bird [01.23.12]
Christmas Bird Count is not just for the birds [12.18.12]
Berkeley owl chick will soon branch out, says expert [04.2612]
Photos: Baby owl on Berkeley trail is growing up fast [04.19.12]
Berkeley owl family grows, more reports of dog swoops [04.02.12]
Owl sets up home on Berkeley trail, dog owners on alert [03.12.12]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • Does anyone know if these are the same breed of burrowing owls that have habitat on the U.C. Davis campus?

  • bingo

    this is such an adorable image. i’ll have to bike down to have a peek.

  • Biker 94703

    I haven’t seen them up there, but I only know of one species in CA. These guys probably migrate over from Moraga or Concord for the winter. I’ve heard tell there are many of them out in the Naval Weapons Storage land.

  • I’m a little confused about the location of “the special fenced-off area near the Tom Bates/Gilman Sports Complex.” There is a large fenced-off area to protect burrowing owl habitat on the “plateau” on the way out to the Albany Bulb, north of the racetrack. To my knowledge there have been no owls observed there after several years of protection. This is the area that was fenced off (and regularly mowed, which is another story) to mitigate the destruction of burrowing owl habitat when the sports fields were built.

    The other protected burrowing owl habitat is very much smaller, along the east shore of Cesar Chavez Park. That one was designated in response to actual owl sightings, and seems to be much more successful than the Albany Plateau boondoggle.

    I’m guessing the photo is of one of our Cesar Chavez Park owls, but it’s nowhere near the Bates Sports Center.

  • Greg Merritt

    This is bay side of the soccer fields, not Chavez. “Fenced off” means temporary plastic orange fencing about four feet high.

  • Okay, it’s not in the Marina then. The headline, “Burrowing owls come out to preen at Berkeley Marina” is misleading.

  • Douglas H Finley

    I have & love cats, but… In NE Davis (just N of my brother’s house), a developer was required to set aside land & create an artificial colony for the couple of dozen burrowing owls his big new subdivision was about to displace from former farmland. I saw the colony of the cute little guys when it was fairly new; at dusk they were just hanging around near the entrances to their burrows. Just a couple of years later, they were all dead. I’m sure it was roaming pet cats from the subdivision, right next door, & maybe some killed on the too-near 50mph expressway. Cats are small, agile, determined & dark-adapted enough to go down & explore every inch of their burrows, unlike most dogs.

    That 4ft high snow fencing is not going to stop any stray cat from jumping over or burrowing under it & feasting on fresh owl–any healthy outdoor cat can jump at least 6ft high, & will when there’s food involved. This colony urgently needs a cat, dog & human-proof fence all around it before they’re all gone. Could someone who knows Berkeley bureaucracy better than I do please insist on this with the right city dept?

  • dee

    Maybe that is not considered marina, but I was there today and saw one owl at the orange fence toward the top of the hill by the soccer field. You look directly across the water from there onto Chavez Park.

  • Mbfarrel

    Next to the fast disappearing “North Sailing Basin” I saw “Wanderer” anchored there before she set sail.