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.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...