Back in October 2008 four of us were on a major trip up the east coast to
see all the birds we could. Of course, when we got to Kingfisher Park we
duly ticked of the Masked Owl that came out at dusk each night. Easy! Then,
2 years later in Sept 2010, came the report that that masked Owl was
actually a Barn owl. Bother! So, open the Excel file, highlight Masked Owl,
hit delete, and back to the hunt. Sigh. But that is one of the joys of
birding, one has to be honest with oneself.
However, losing that particular bird was a bit annoying because I don’t
enjoy driving country roads alone at night while spotlighting over farmer’s
paddocks. Nor do I enjoy going down dirt roads alone in the dark, who knows
what sort of boogy-man is just around the corner with a loaded chain saw?
So after the delete button was hit I have spent the last 2 ½ years
searching around Eaglehawk neck in southern Tasmania and cruising the back
roads south-east of Orbost, with friends.
We have heard the owl call a few times and I have emailed friends and
contacts seeking out all the latest information. People replied, “It’s
easy. Stop here, play tape, bird will arrive” or “They are common just
north of the intersection” or “We saw three last weekend” Sigh. Not for me,
a bogy bird is a bogy bird is a bogy bird.
Then Tim McKellar put a sighting on Birdata. Don’t you just love Birdata
and Birding – Aus? All the best info turns up on these sites. Armed with
this new info Joy and I headed for Orbost. On Saturday night it was
overcast and a violent thunderstorm had just gone through. I guess rain and
forked lightning is not good for owling ‘cos we tried a string of
locations, including Tim’s, and didn’t see any. Sunday night was better
with a full moon and 50% overcast. We tried the same locations again, and
this time Tim’s came good. Ten seconds of playback and the Masked Owl
alighted on a dead branch 3 metres above our heads. And it was a truly
beautiful bird, definitely my new most favourite owl in the whole world. I
am still smiling.
Joy must have known the bogy-owl was going to give itself up because she
had bought 2 single drink bottles of bubbly at the pub when we had dinner.
We opened the car fridge and toasted the owl.
The rest of the weekend wasn’t too shabby either. We had our second
Square-tailed Kite for the year and then Joy stopped the car right where a
male Emu-wren was waiting to jump out and wave at us. And then two
Turquoise Parrots flew up from the road and perched in the sun. Enough to
say, the weekend was a roaring success.We saw over 100 species including
Beautiful Firetail, Southern Emu-wren, Bassian Thrush, Rufous Fantail,
Large-billed Scrubwren and lots of other delightful birds. Surprise dips
though were waders and terns at the mouth of the Snowy River. There were
none, no stilts, no Little Tern, no Red-capped Plover, nothing but a few
oystercatchers and gulls.
And to top it off, an Australian Sea Lion was resting on the rocks at the
West Cape boat launch. Croajingolong. It was a long way off but I do wish I
had taken its photo as I find now that they are not common that far east.
So thanks Tim, thanks Birdata and Birding Aus and Happy New Year to
ps: Now I am after my next bogy-bird, Pale-vented Bush-hen, and yes, I know
they are easy, they are "just up the road at the creek, we saw one there
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