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.
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