Outfoxed by owls

In addition to trying to find wild horses, I was hoping to spot some burrowing owls on my trip to Riverton last week. I found the horses, but I struck out on my quest to see owls.

I’ve been wanting to find some burrowing owls for a long time. I’ve seen some great photos of these little birds, and I’ve been hoping to get some of my own shots. They’re just cool little birds.

My dad thought he might know where some could be up by Riverton, so we drove out there to look. That’s when it hit me that we were basically looking for a needle in a haystack. Burrowing owls are tiny creatures, as owls go. They’re about the size of a prairie dog, and they tend to be found in abandoned prairie dog holes. There are often prairie dogs in other burrows nearby, though, so you have to look closely at every prairie dog hole and each prairie dog to make sure none of them are actually owls.

One of the biologists at the Lander field office of the Game and Fish gave me a good tip, though. He said if you play a burrowing owl call on a speaker of some sort, you’ll probably get an immediate reply from any burrowing owls in the area. It’ll let you know if there are any owls in the vicinity, and it’ll also pin down their location so you can find them easier.

I had a burrowing owl call on my Green Mountain digital field guide in my phone, and I gave it a try. The speaker’s not very loud on my phone, but it was all I had. And I immediately heard something that could have been an owl call from off to my left.

The problem is, burrowing owls sound a lot like prairie dogs. I’m going to have to do a little more research before I go looking for owls again, so I can differentiate their calls. But even though I didn’t see any owls, it was good to be out in the wilds with my dad again.