grass owl at werribee

Subject: grass owl at werribee
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 10:42:09 +1000
Dear All, On Monday evening I was surprised to see a Grass Owl hunting 
over long grass near Lake Borrie, ~40 minutes after sunset (7.00 PM). 
Despite the fading light, its large head and dark upperparts were clearly 
evident, and it was larger and more heavily built than Barn Owl, and 
differed in appearance and behaviour.  On one occasion it dropped its long 
legs in an unsuccessful attempt to catch prey, and when it flew on the 
legs extended well beyond the tail.  The location was near the native 
grasslands, accessed from between Lake Borrie pond 9 (the one with the 
trees) and pond 24 (the large pond between pond 9 and Beach Road).  I've 
since heard that Dave Torr and others saw one in early afternoon the 
previous day, in saltmarsh beside the Little River.  Both locations are 
close to each other, and only ~2 km from Kirk Point where this species was 
seen in August last year.  Obvious questions: is it the same bird and has 
it been there all the time?  I'd have thought yes until I heard about 
Dave's record: if two groups of people find the species independently in 
two days after an absence of records for 6 months, surely something new 
has happened!  Either the same bird has returned or suddenly changed its 
behaviour, or a new one has arrived, or could there have been an influx of 
more than one bird?

At this stage, we don't know if the bird has a regular routine or not. 
It's good that Dave saw the bird in daylight, and we'd recommend people to 
look for it mainly by day to minimise disturbance to roosting waterbirds 
(I was doing a count of roosting ibis).  I've talked to Will Steele at 
Melbourne Water, and he'd be very interested in further records, and would 
like people to contact him if planning to look at dusk, in order to keep 
track of how many people may be visiting at that time (ph 9235 7287 or 
0418-373036,   It would be great if 
we find that one or more birds take up residence in the area.

Cheers, Richard.


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