[Tweeters] Everett Burrowing Owl ... Some Facts and Speculation but Not Accusation

Mechejmch mechejmch at aol.com
Thu Jan 3 07:54:31 PST 2013

Excellent assessment of this and similar situations that have come up in the past.
Makes for a good read over morning coffee!
Thanks, Blair.

Joe Meche

-----Original Message-----
From: Blair Bernson <blair at washingtonadvisorygroup.com>
To: tweeters <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Sent: Thu, Jan 3, 2013 7:00 am
Subject: [Tweeters] Everett Burrowing Owl ... Some Facts and Speculation but Not Accusation

Many of us were disappointed not to see the
Burrowing Owl at Everett yesterday. I went up
there with the hopes of making it my FOY bird -
which of course meant keeping eyes/memory/counter
closed for the crows, hawks, gulls etc seen on the
road up to Everett. It did not happen...no owl.
But just as I remind people in my other outdoor
love that it is called "Fishing" and not
"Catching", despite the disappointment of not
seeing the target bird (and it happened many times
during my State Big Year last year), it was a
glorious morning, I met some great people, saw
some old friends, made some new ones and
discovered a new area to revisit someday. It is
the participation in birding, with at least the
possibility of specific success that is most

There has been a lot of speculation as to the
disappearance of the Owl. From what I read, it is
backwards finger pointing at some alleged
transgression that at best is third hand and to me
seems like speculation only. Are there birders
with bad birding etiquette? ... unquestionably
YES. Should we all think carefully about how we
approach birds (for the birds, ourselves and
others)?...unquestionably YES. But sometimes
birds just move on..probably inexplicably just
like it is inexplicable why they show up in some
of the places they do. (Why a Summer Tanager at
an Apartment Building feeder in the University
District in Seattle? And why did it leave?)

Here are facts as I know them from yesterday: I
arrived in bright sunshine around 9:45 a.m. I met
two other birders there immediately who had been
there for 30 minutes. They had previously spoken
to someone (a guy) who had seen the Owl at length
yesterday but who had been there since before 9:00
a.m. and had not seen the Owl on Wednesday. He
told the others that the Port had "closed the
gate" because there had been so much activity.
Closing the gate BTW did not mean locking it, just
bringing the two ends together. The roadway it
blocked was covered with water and ice. It in no
way made it impossible to walk to the area where
the Owl had been seen yesterday as the area is
completely open and accessible from the other
side (perhaps causing even more disturbance than
it would to come through the gate and remain in a
car as "a blind".

I remained in the area until past 11:00 a.m. And
I was there when a woman from the Port came over
and acknowledged closing the gate to tone done the
activity/disturbance. She did not directly
associate any specific behavior with any effect on
the Owl or its disappearance.

The last sighting of the Owl was Tuesday before
sundown. Nobody saw it afterwards despite many
good eyes looking. Maybe somebody specifically
got too close and the bird flew off but there is
no specific indication of that. MANY people were
in the vicinity of the Owl yesterday and maybe the
cumulative effect was too much and the Owl moved
off at night...or maybe...fill in any of a number
of any possibilities that simply "come with the

I am posting here only because I think it best
that we all try to keep the facts straight and let
them lead to action/learning where valuable. To
blame some unknown bad actor for missing a bird is
damaging and misappropriate. Lessons of
etiquette? Great. But they are most effective
when specific and based on facts. The reality is
probably that all of us disturb many birds all the
time. We can minimize our impact but not remove it
entirely. If we really wanted that Owl to stay as
long as IT wished in Everett, it would not have
been reported and not visited (and not enjoyed)
and the entire area would have been off limits.
Still may have stuck around exactly as long as it
did and left exactly when it did.

I am sorry I missed this owl. I am glad others
got to see it and I enjoyed the excitement that
came with the possibility of seeing it. If another
such special bird is around and I can find the
time, I will probably go look for it - feeling
better if found, but still feeling good to
participate in "Birding" even without always
"Finding". And in doing so I will try to use best
birding etiquette and hope that others will as
well. And I know sometimes they will not...Nobody
knows that is what happens here.

Hope the Owl returns and everyone who missed it,
gets to see it...and behaves.

Blair Bernson

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