This picture of a burrowing owl was taken this past Easter weekend at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This is a rare sighting for this area and we were alerted to the owl presence by an EBird email notification earlier in the week. Steigerwald Lake NWR is located in Washougal, Washington at the crossroads of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River. It took us a few days before we were able to make the trip down to the Washougal area and was lucky enough that the little burrowing owl was still on site on the day we arrived.
Once at the refuge it was about a half mile to one mile walk through the refuge to get to the dike. Once on the dike you have a short walk to an old barn. In front of the barn there was a view of three rubbish piles where the little owl had taken up residence. The refuge has well maintained and level gravel paths that weave throughout the 1,000+ acres. During the walk we saw several Kestrels in and in some cases two to a tree. Other species we saw were Northern Harries, Eagles, Canada Geese, a variety of Ducks, and a Heron rookery in the cottonwoods within the riparian area of the refuge. We were pleasantly surprised to stumbled upon this very active rookery. The Herons were flying back and forth tending to the young. It reminded us of a busy airport and the Herons were planes coming and going.
There were only a few birders which allowed us to photograph the bird in a peaceful envrionment. For the most part the owl was hidden in one of the three piles in front of the barn and would arise out from time to time to survey the area. Burrowing Owls are small, sandy colored owls with bright-yellow eyes. They tend to live underground in burrows created by them or abandoned by prairie dogs or ground squirrels. Burrowing Owls are also known to create homes from rubbish piles that humans leave behind. These owls mostly hunt during the day in the breeding season but mostly at dusk and night. They tend to live in open grasslands, and deserts were they hunt rodents and insects. Since we arrived later in the day we didn’t get to stay long and were not able to see the Owl in action. However, Steigerwald will be on our list whenever we are in the area to enjoy more of the wildlife viewing opportunities it has to offer.