Peter Waanders mentioned that I had seen a Masked Owl at Gluepot Station
and asked if I could post further details. I was on a tour with Emu Tours
(Richard Jordan's final advertised tour).
We were camped at Sittella Camp for three nights. On the second morning
before breakfast I walked west of the camp with Eric Broadfoot from Sydney
hoping to get better looks at Black-eared Miners that we had seen briefly
the previous morning. We wandered around seeing nothing much special, when
I heard some Grey Butcherbirds making a racket and I thought possibly some
As I approached the butcherbirds a large white bird took off. Initial
impressions were of a Nankeen Night Heron, larger than a Little Corella or
possibly a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. When I got my binoculars on the bird
in flight I saw it was an owl. The butcherbirds continued to harrass the
owl so we were able to relocate it on four more occasions. I got good
enough looks to know that it was a Masked Owl. This is the first that I
have found, although I have been shown three others.
Breakfast time was fast approaching so I left the owl alone and we returned
to camp. I checked the field guides and became more certain that I had
seen a very light morph Masked Owl, but none showed it distributed anywhere
near except for Morcambe. The illustration in Pizzey & Knight was the closest.
During breakfast it was decided that we should try to relocate the bird as
we realised that it was the first record for Gluepot, and it would be the
first sighting for most on the tour. However I hadn't taken a GPS reading
of the location, and I had followed the wrong compass bearing out to the
track to return to camp. However, I had made a mark on the track. So we
returned to the spot and as a group we retraced our earlier footprints in
the Gluepot dust. It made it obvious how badly the route was that I had
used to walk back!! The mark on the track was 900 metres from camp. We
managed to find the site where I had last seen it and this was only 350
metres from camp. I didn't hold much hope of relocating it as we had seen
the butcherbirds and they were no longer harassing the owl. So the 19
people spread out and within a few minutes the shout went out and I turned
around to see the bird float into a tall mallee. We had two spotting
scopes so we set these up and observed the owl from about 40 metres for
about 30 minutes.
Apart from the size (estimated both times at 45cm), the most obvious
feature are the very large strong feet and feathered legs. Through the
scope the markings on the feathers are very delicate with small white
diamonds on the back and smaller black spots on the head and side of the neck.
This is a truly stunning bird and certainly the bird of the trip and a
sighting to remember.
The other highlights of Gluepot were Chestnut-crowned Babbler (very
common), Chestnut Quail-thrush (common), White-fronted Honeyeater (common),
White-browed Treecreeper (fairly common near casuarina), Black-eared Cuckoo
(two), Striated Grasswren (1), Red-lored Whistler (quick look), Shy
Heathwren (2), Peregrine Falcon (1), Striped Honeyeater (3), etc. The
downside were the number of goats and a few rabbits.
Frank O'Connor Birding WA http://www.iinet.net.au/~foconnor
8C Hardy Road Email :
Nedlands WA 6009 ICQ : 14655047
Phone : +61 8 9386 5694
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