(16th January 99)
I'm excited and surprised after the last three nights. A Sooty Owl has
suddenly started calling near my house.
I first heard it at 8.25pm (after sunset but still reasonably light) on
13th January. I was inside, talking on the phone, and the weird
descending scream seemed to fill the air. Yet it wasn't until it called
a second time that it hit me what it was. "Hold on, I think that's a
Sooty Owl!" and the poor bewildered person on the other end of the phone
line had to wait for about 10 minutes while I rushed outside and stood
there hoping it would call again, but to no avail.
The next night I stood outside in the mist for an hour at sunset (a nice
glass of red in hand to help pass the time) listening. Nothing. (As it
turned out my neighbours, also birders, later told me that they heard it
call in the distance that night at about 10.30pm.) Last night, the 15th,
again nothing at dusk, but then at 11.50pm I was standing outside with
Peter, my boyfriend, and we were talking about hearing the owl. Peter's
not a birdwatcher and asked what its call sounds like, and just at that
moment his question was answered, clear as anything, with the "falling
bomb" call given from probably about 500 metres away.
In the 16 years I've been living in the Blue Mountains, and 14 years in
this house, this is the first time I've heard a Sooty Owl in the area.
They have occasionally been reported from Coachwood Glen (Megalong
Valley) and there is a well-known pair at Jenolan Caves.
I live less than one kilometre from the centre of Katoomba and well
within its urban confines. If I stand on my front doorstep and look to
the left I can see the town centre and the back of the historic
Carrington Hotel with its tall brick chimney where a Peregrine Falcon
sometimes sits, watching over the town and its pigeons. If I look ahead
and to the right, I am looking down onto a large park (42ha) of mainly
eucalypt forest which is part of a bushland corridor running down to
Katoomba Falls and the Jamison Valley to the south, and linking with
Nellies Glen and the Megalong Valley to the west. The area below my
house is dominated by Eucalyptus oreades (Blue Mtns Ash), mostly
regenerated after clearing in the 60s but with a few old specimens up to
40m tall, with a dense understorey including many tree ferns and some
patches that are heavily weed infested. Bush regeneration is in progress
and many of the large pine trees have recently been removed. I'll do
some searching and try to find evidence of a roost site.
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