The Phoenix Metropolitan area is a curious concoction. Phoenix itself is a large city, both in terms of area and population. Surrounding the state capital are ten more small cities: Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tempe, Avondale, Goodyear, Sun City, Gilbert, Surprise, and Peoria. Stretching out from these locales, neighborhoods and master-planned communities seem to stretch on in all directions. One of my favorite birding sites, the Tres Rios Wetlands, sits near the border between west Phoenix and Avondale. While driving to Tres Rios, you'll pass through the cookie-cutter houses of the master-planned communities, neighborhoods where the pursuit of maximized square-footage was once the highest good (priorities and fashions have since changed). You'll also pass through lots of open, odiferous farmland. If you turn and head west just before you reach the Tres Rios site, and follow a dirt road along the farmland canal, you'll find another little planned community. Between the northern borders of the Tres Rios preserve and Farmington Glen sits Burrower's Row.
There are no signs announcing that, "You have now entered Burrower's Row," but there are still markers, of sorts, so you know when you're in the right spot:
Despite the somewhat slovenly appearance of this particular Owl, the residents of Burrower's Row are a very strict bunch. There is always a sentinel at the eastern-most point of entry, perched high on the telephone lines and supervising the little town's security.
The houses (burrows) are arranged in neat rows along the farmland. At the moment, there appears to be no more than 2 Owls living in each Burrow, though there are at least 4 different pairs of Owls. They have a strict home-owner's association, and they keep their domiciles very tidy. It's a pretty homogenous group. Crime rates and taxes are all very low, but sometimes they react to outsiders with astonishment and suspicion, even from afar.
In the morning and during the day, the residents of Burrower's Row like to stay down in the fields, away from the elevated dirt road and its dusty heat. During the evening, the descending sun holds everything in a warm embrace, saying goodbye with its last rays of yellow light, and promising to rise again soon. The Owls like to perch along the frontage road during this time. They preen, gossip, and replay the day in their heads--much like the rest of us. It is best to visit Burrower's Row during these quiet, well-lit moments.
The owl shown below may well be the sheriff of Burrower's Row. While all the other Burrowers were enjoying the fading light, he seemed determined to maintain his stern and serious face. I would vote to re-elect this Owl for sheriff if it were up to me, but alas I wouldn't even qualify for citizenship in Burrower's Row (which is probably a good thing for all parties involved).
These next three pictures were taken by Maria, and the last one is my favorite. Burrowing Owls are very expressive and, as you have previously endured, I like to personify and fit captions to every Burrowing Owl photo I see.
:: :sniff: :: "Hmm, what's that smell?"
"Drat! I knew I stepped in something..."
For this third and last photo, I couldn't settle on a caption. I'd like to leave this last photo open to suggestions. Is the Owl solemnly swearing revenge? Is it doing some sort of fist pump celebration? Is it seeing if it's possible to walk with one's eyes closed? You tell me, and try to stop by and visit the wonderful residents of Burrower's Run some time soon.