Atacama Salt Flats, Chile: Burrowing Owl

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Cycling to Laguna Cejar…

Part III in a multi-part series on our recent trip to the Atacama Salt Flats of Chile.

In northern Chile, surrounded by volcanoes and mountains in the Andes chain, lies the “Salar de Atacama” or Atacama Salt Flats. This large saline deposit originated as minerals washed downhill from the mountains and the water subsequently evaporated in the dry desert heat. In this shallow basin, the standing water is of high salinity. Although this creates an extreme buoyancy when swimming, it also means that, like the Dead Sea, it is devoid of fish and aquatic vegetation. Despite initial perceptions, insects, reptiles, and birds abound in the inhospitable environment.

With the fury of this winter bearing down us, we’ve been dreaming of warmer climes. Flashback to our recent trip to the desert… While cycling to Laguna Cejar, I nearly flew over the handlebars when I spotted this fellow. Hiding in plain sight, this Burrowing Owl was beating the sun with a siesta in the shade! Known locally as “Pequén”, it makes its home in an underground burrow.

Demonstrating the Burrowing Owl’s camouflage in this full frame photo…

A closer look at the same photo...

A closer look at the same photo…

Brilliant yellow eyes peeking through...

Brilliant yellow eyes peeking through…

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