Owl About That

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Owl About That
From: knightl <>
Date: Sun, 2 Mar 2003 17:42:04 +1000
A couple of weeks ago, Leanne and I flushed an owl in a rainforest gully in SEQ. I didn't get a good enough look to ID it, which was a bit frustrating as it would have been a dead certain tick for me.

I took some feathers I found at the site into Ric Natrass [Qld Naturesearch coordinator]. Based on the feathers and my description, he was pretty certain we were talking about a sooty owl.

So this morning, I quietly made my way back down that gully, digital camera in case. The common rainforest doves/pigeons for this part of the world [brown, white-headed, rose-crowned, wompoo, wonga] were all in fine voice, as were the whipbirds and lewin's honeyeaters.

It took me a couple of hours to get down to the point where I saw the owl last time [partly because I was constantly on the lookout for a large bird lurking in the lower-middle canopy]. On the way I stopped to check the level of the light by taking a picture of a somnolent carpet-snake - came out OK at 1/3 sec on the 800 ISO setting.

Just as I was creeping towards the owl roost, I saw a large [cockatoo-sized] bird flying high out of the locality. 'Ah ha' I thought. Being of the opinion that owls don't fly that far when flushed during the day, I backed up a step and had a look through the knocker-lockers in the direction of the bird's flight.

As luck would have it, I could see the bird clearly through a small window in the canopy [a bit like those Sydney real estate ads that say 'harbour views' - when in reality you can see a sliver through the toilet window]. The owl had a classic tyto face mask, big dark eyes with broad 'eye shadows', long white legs and grey-brown [speckled white] wings. All up, the bird matched the 'light-morph' sooty owl pictured in the fourth edition of Simpson & Day - and quite a bit different to the picture of a sooty in Pizzy & Knight [where it is rendered as a uniformly dark grey and squat bird].

As you'd expect photographing a bird at 50+ metres through a hole in the canopy isn't easy, and with the lens set on 8x magnification it was hard to even see the owl in the viewfinder. However, with the focus set on infinity, I managed to get a shot where it is possible to see the owl well enough to pick it as a tyto.

I should have taken some more shots from that spot [a few shots with fractional movement of the camera may have clearer view, and I could have reduced the ISO setting to improve picture quality], but I tried my luck getting a different angle, and couldn't find the owl again [it undoubtedly flew off while I was moving].

On the way back to the car, I stopped to re-photograph the carpet-snake [It had woken enough at some stage to curl up], and it being Clean Up Oz Day, collected a feral stubby.

Regards, Laurie.

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