Sooty Owls at Toronto!

Subject: Sooty Owls at Toronto!
From: Craig Williams <>
Date: Thu, 04 Aug 2005 12:03:35 +1000
Hi Michael

Very very interesting sighting for the Toronto area: in my 39 years in
the area I've never encountered Sooty Owls so close to the Lake.

The only location I've encountered Sooties across any significant time
frame was in a thickly vegetated riparian area some 10km or a bit more
west of the Lake, in quite steep country rising up into the mountains. 
I have recordings of Sooties in this particular area across a 25 year
period: I was first introduced to the species in the area in the mid to
late 1970s.  Years later I returned for more systematic birding and
again encountered Sooties.  Two pairs on either side of the mountain,
east and west, living in steep, thickly vegetated and unlogged riparian
territory.  The birds in this case were breeding and over a five year
period I was able to spot them consistently in the same area on a yearly

Tragically this area has recently been logged for a pittance by the way,
and I've not registered sightings of Sooties this year.  The nest hollow
tree that I observed being used by the birds was destroyed. This did
surprise me given the compartment was registered as Sooty habitat, and
some vegetation was left in an area identified by forestry studies as
being active breeding territory for the owls.  I've not seen the owls
using the tiny block of trees left standing, though of course they might
be around.  I don't use recorded calls to attract birds so I can't say
my searching is based on sound professional strategies: unfortunately
that job is left to the professionals employed by forestry nsw.  

My questions: What information do we have regarding Sooty dispersal
following habitat destruction and transformation: is it possible that
the birds in the Toronto area are retreating from areas of more
suitable/conventional Sooty habitat being logged intensively?   How far
will a Sooty Owl go to get away from bad action?

What can we do to get some conservation action going in these areas: we
clearly need some big blocks of bushland set up as guaranteed habitat to
ensure the viability of such threatened species in the region.  And
given significant areas of remaining bushland in western Lake Macquarie
are earmarked for "greenfields" development, open cut coalmines, and
continued logging, my worry is that the future presence of these birds
and many others is far from ensured.

Craig Williams

>>>  08/04/05 12:27 AM >>>
Hello all,

I've just had the most amazing experience in my backyard at suburban 
Excelsior Pde, Toronto (central coast, Lake Macquarie NSW). I'd just 
returned from a Hunter Bird Observers Club Committee meeting, about 1030

pm, locked the car and heard a very clear and close Sooty Owl falling 
bomb whistle. While I instantly registered it as a Sooty Owl call I 
didn't quite believe it. First I thought that I must have had a tape go 
on in the car.... no tapes running. Then I thought there must be a 
neighbour playing owl calls (unusual but just possible).... no more 
calls. Nextdoor to where I live has had 95% of its trees bulldozed in 
the last couple of days for a block of units and I wondered whether 
there might be a fauna consultant in there- a bit late I thought.

Then it called again, clear as day (or night as it is). No doubt this 
time! After a frantic search for a spotlight and a couple of minutes of 
scanning I found it in the top of one of the few remaining eucalypts in 
next doors mini lunar landscape. After about 20 min it flew into my 
front yard and managed to situate itself in some dense vegetation where 
I was unable to see it but was serenaded by it for the next hour. There 
was a burst of insect trilling for a while but it was mostly falling 
bomb whistles every 4-5 min. No photographs unfortunately but I got a 
bit of audio recording. While listening to one of the recordings I 
thought I heard a second bomb whistle in the distance just before my 
bird whistled. I'll have to check the recordings closely to be sure.

Sooty Owl at Toronto is very unusual- I've never heard of them being 
found so close to the Lake. The nearest nesting birds that I'm aware of 
would be about 15 km away. Incidentally that area has been heavily 
logged in the last few months. I assume that these Toronto birds are 
dispersing post-breeding birds as there isn't any habitat that I would 
describe as Sooty habitat locally.

Still, it was very exciting- a great and unexpected bird to add to the 
backyard list!



Michael Todd 
Images & Sounds of Nature
Latest Additions: Awaba's Masked Owls
Toronto, NSW, Australia 
04101 23715

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