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I was driving home from Sioux Falls to Brandon the summer of 2008, when something on a fence post on the side of the road caught my eye. I had to do a double-take, and upon turning around, confirmed my first impressions...it was a Burrowing Owl!! Only 1 mile from the intersection of 2 interstates, only 1/2 a mile from the Sioux Falls sewage treatment plant!! It was about the last thing I would have expected to see. Burrowing Owls simply aren't found in eastern South Dakota, at least not for several decades. There were no confirmed breeding records in the county, and the last record of any Burrowing Owls anywhere close was a pair in the county to the south, over 20 years earlier.
Over the next many weeks, I visited the owls several times a week. They had a burrowing in a very odd place...an old badger hole, right in the middle of an actively harvested alfalfa field. Two adults were raising 5 chicks, and they seemed to be doing very well, with all but 1 of the chicks successfully fledgling (one was killed by a predator).
Despite their being easily observed from the road, photographing them was difficult. They wouldn't let you get close enough. However, on this night, August 22nd, 2008, I was driving home from the airport at about 10:30 at night, coming home from a business trip. I had my camera with me, and was driving by the owl's alfalfa field, when I thought what the heck, and turned around and stopped. Right there, on the gravel road intersecting the field, was this adult and 3 juveniles, catching insects along the roadside. And best of all, they didn't care at all about my presence. I was able to get some great photos, including this one.
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