Posts Tagged ‘owl’

The Rock Eagle Owls of NICE Road, Bangalore, Karnataka, 260414

April 27, 2014

I’ve always been drawn to owls, and the

ROCK EAGLE OWL

also called the Indian Eagle Owl, has been one of my favourites; I’ve sighted it at Bannerghatta, Turahalli, and at various other locations.

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For the past few years, we’ve been watching some of these majestic birds making their home on the rocky outcrops of the highway built by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), around Bangalore.

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As we were returning from our trip to Sakleshpur, where we did a bird census for a coffee estate (a very satisfying assignment, more about it later!) we decided we would detour on to this toll road and try our luck with the owls. And we were rewarded for our efforts!

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The Rock Eagle Owls were earlier treated as a subspecies of the Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo) but are now considered as separate.

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The wiki says, “They are seen in scrub and light to medium forests but are especially seen near rocky places within the mainland of the Indian Subcontinent south of the Himalayas and below 5000 feet elevation.

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“Humid evergreen forest and extremely arid areas are avoided. Bush-covered rocky hillocks and ravines, and steep banks of rivers and streams are favourite haunts.

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Here’s a view of the habitat…can you see one of the Owls here?

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I zoomed in further:

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and some more, to show the excellent camouflage when the bird’s head is turned away, and those amazing eyes are not visible:

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Here, one eye is visible:

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“The nesting season is November to April. The eggs number three to four and are creamy white, broad roundish ovals with a smooth texture. They are laid on bare soil in a natural recess in an earth bank, on the ledge of a cliff, or under the shelter of a bush on level ground. The nest site is reused each year. The eggs hatch after about 33 days and the chicks are dependent on their parents for nearly six months.”

They were quite enjoying the breeze, closing their eyes and letting their feathers ruffle:

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Nowhere is the usefulness of a good zoom illustrated more in the ability to “approach” these birds while keeping one’s distance. Here are the lesser and higher zoom images:

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“It spends the day under the shelter of a bush or rocky projection, or in a large mango or similar thickly foliaged tree near villages.”

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Their diet seems to be very varied: “Their diet through much of the year consists of rodents, but birds seem to be mainly taken towards winter. Prey species of birds include partridges, doves, Indian Roller,the Shikra and the Spotted Owlet. Birds the size of a peacock are sometimes attacked; Bats were also preyed on, and mammals the size of a Black-naped hare may be taken.” As if to bear this out, we saw several Peafowl on the fence nearby, and squirrels scampering around the area.

Alas, all is not well in the world of the Owls. The Wiki notes:” Like many other large owls, these are considered birds of ill omen. Their deep haunting calls if delivered from atop a house are considered to forebode the death of an occupant. A number of rituals involving the capture and killing of these birds have been recorded. Salim Ali notes a wide range of superstitions related to them but notes two as being particularly widespread. One is that if the bird is starved for a few days and beaten, it would speak like a human, predicting the future of the tormentor or bringing them wealth while the other involves the killing of the bird to find a lucky bone that moved against the current like a snake when dropped into a stream. Belief in these superstitions has led to the persecution of the species in many areas by tribal hunters. The capture of these birds is illegal under Indian law but an underground market continues to drive poaching.”

It is sad that superstition seems to rule the life prospects of these beautiful birds…and another matter of concern with the owls shown here is the rampant construction going on in the area where the Owls are.

But as of now, the birds seem to be holding their own. I do hope the Rock Eagle Owls of the NICE Road remain, sentinels of our urban wildlife, for a long time to come!

Here’s a video of two of the birds, and the rocky habitat:

Should you go to the NICE Road to sight these birds, please keep your distance from them, and use a good pair of binoculars or good zoom lenses to observe and document them. They are under enough threat from urban development, let us not add to the difficulties of their survival! Also, remember that you are on a highway, so keep the car moving slowly. If you stop the car and get out…be quick, and be careful..remember that on the highway, you yourself are at risk!

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Forest Park Forever/Audubon Society monthly birdwalk, 030813, Forest Park, St.Louis

August 3, 2013

We gathered and walked out of the Visitors’ Center:

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Mark took us to see the Charles, the male

GREAT HORNED OWL:

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A male

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH

delighted us with flashes of yellow:

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In the distance (across Lindell Blvd) we saw, through the cloudy weather, a

GREEN HERON

almost in silhouette:

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On the same tree, a

RED-TAILED HAWK

also sat; it was very pale indeed, even for a juvenile:

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Meanwhile, I learnt that this is

POISON IVY:

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(Throughout the walk, Amy, Jim and others taught me a lot about the plants and trees that I saw.)

We followed the course of the creek, and we saw a

NORTHERN FLICKER

and a

MOURNING DOVE

on the bank:

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Pat is a heroine in my book; she turns out for the walks in spite of having a lot on her plate to deal with:

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Was this a

WREN

or a

SONG SPARROW?

with just the silhouette to go by, we were not sure…but the song decided us that it was the latter.

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That delightful summer visitor,the

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD

made several appearances (all, alas, high up on trees, where we could not see the shimmering colours!)

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The

IRONWEED

was in flower:

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We followed the Kingfishers down the creek:

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The

WATERLILY

and the

WATER PRIMROSE

looked pretty in the water:

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This wildflower looked beautiful with the raindrops!

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As did this one, which Marilynn Motchan id’d the next day at Rockwoods Reservation, as

SENNA:

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We saw several

EASTERN KINGBIRDS

(and some Eastern Phoebes, too)

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Another Green Heron came and landed behind the reeds, and proceeded to make a meal off a frog.

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I spotted these

APHIDS

(Amy Witt id’d them for me) on a plant…they looked beautiful!

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Here are the flowers of the plant:

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Some of the native grasses are as beautiful as carefully-bred cultivars!

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Waterlilies, both white

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and pink

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were a treat to the eye.

These are called SEA OATS, but I agree with Jim Wilson…when we are near the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers, RIVER OATS is a better name!

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This is the

BOTTLE-BRUSH GRASS:

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Jim told me that when

POKEWEED

turns this wonderful magenta, it’s poisonous to humans:

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As we crossed a muddy ditch, we saw this

JEWEL PLANT (also called Touch-me-not) blooming:

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I was also very happy to see the first few

MONARCH

butterflies of the season:

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This

PEARL CRESCENT

was also beautiful…

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Brenda spotted this beautiful

COOPER’S HAWK

in the air, being mobbed by several other birds:

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The walk came to an end with Karen announcing Audubon Society free birdwalks for September and October:

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Bradley, Mark, Brenda and I continued onwards for another look at the Great Horned Owls. It’s long been a running joke that Mark always spots Barred Owls, and I have never seen one, yet. This morning, too, he arrived with a shot of one that he’d just seen…and when we went there, of course, the Bird Had Flown! (That’s what I call “Avian Flew”!) We teased Mark that he’d probably taken that photo in Yellowstone and come down to meet us!

We saw the Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a tree again (near the Visitors’ Center)…and this was a really amazing sight. The other birds were very perturbed by the Hawk..but a tiny Hummer sat on another branch of the tree, quite unconcerned!

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The Hawk sat on the left-hand-side of the tree, and the Hummer, a tiny dot,on the extreme right.

Here’s the Hawk:

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Here’s the Hummer in closeup (thank goodness for the huge zoom on my camera!)

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We saw this

MALLARD

mother with her children:

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And we wound up watching Sarah, the female Great Horned Owl, and then, one of the young ones, in the wooded area:

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For my FB album with more photos (esp of the variety of plants),

click here

Bird List:

Blackbird, Red-winged
Dove, Mourning
Flicker, Northern
Goldfinch, American
Grackle, Common
Hawk, Cooper’s
Hawk, Red-tailed
Heron, Great Blue
Heron, Green
Housefinch, Common
Hummingbird, Ruby-throated
Kingbird, Eastern
Kingfisher, Belted
Mallard
Owl, Great Horned
Robin, American
Phoebe, Eastern
Sparrow, Chipping
Sparrow, House
Sparrow, Song
Starling, Common
Swallow, Barn
Swift, Chimney
Wren, Carolina
Woodpecker, Red-headed
Yellowthroat, Common

FPF/Audubon 1st Saturday Bird Walk, 010613, Forest Park

June 3, 2013

This was supposed to be a walk to the Norman Probstein Golf Course, to see the gourds and boxes of the

PURPLE MARTINS

about which I’d posted earlier,

here

However, the “official” walk was cancelled, due to possible inclement weather. Here’s the path as I walked up to the Visitors’ Center:

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Several of us

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enjoyed John Miller’s

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informative talk about them…and since the weather had cleared up considerably when we emerged from the Visitors’ Center, several of us decided to follow Mark Glenshaw over to see the Great Horned Owls.

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Mark and Brenda are nothing short of superb in their skills at spotting these birds in the heavy vegetation and the rainy, low-light conditions…so we were able to enjoy the sight of these majestic birds.

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We saw this

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD

male, showing why he is named so:

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We then walked further, looking at various waterfowl, such as this

MALLARD couple, the

GREEN HERON:

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and this

SNOWY EGRET, fishing:

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and then Liz, John, and Robert agreed to come with me to see the Purple Martins at the Norman Probstein Golf Course. On the way, we saw several birds, including this

EASTERN KINGBIRD

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We finally saw the Purple Martins, too, in their gourds and boxes,

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swooping and hawking for insects.

We then went to the Prairie area, saw some more birds such as this

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD female and the EASTERN KINGBIRD,

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the

SONG SPARROW:

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We went home after a very enjoyable morning.

Here are Robert, John and Liz, who were patient enough to be with me on my peregrinations!

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Bird List:

Blackbird, Red-winged
Cardinal, Northern
Cowbird, Brown-headed
Crow, American
Dove, Mourning
Egret, Great
Egret,Snowy
Flicker, Northern
Grackle, Common
Heron, Green
Kingbird, Eastern
Martin, Purple
Mockingbird, Northern
Oriole, Baltimore
Owl, Great Horned
Pigeon, Blue Rock
Robin, American
Sparrow, House
Sparrow, Song
Starling, Common
Swallow, Barn
Swallow, Tree
Swift, Chimney
Wren, Carolina
Woodpecker, Red-headed

I did see and hear a few Warblers, but was not able to make any definitive ids.

The common birds of Forest Park continue to fascinate and delight me! I’ve put up some of my SMS (Shamelessly Mediocre Shots) on a web album,

here

I’ve also written the narrative.

Liz was kind enough to give me a ride back home…it was 1pm by then! Another lovely Saturday morning, spent in my favourite haunt!

Lone Elk Park, and Forest Park, 090213

February 12, 2013

After visiting the temple, Anjana acceded to my request to drive through Lone Elk Park (more than that was not possible, given a 12-day-old baby in the car, and the cold weather), and it was a good drive…as we were able to see

ELK ,

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(that one’s a calf, there were many, and I clicked a few!)

the endangered

AMERICAN BISON ,

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WHITE-TAILED DEER

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….and one very cute squirrel!

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The Elk calves were, like all babies, very cute:

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We passed several Bison, in the age-old landscape:

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Doe-eyed describes the deer very well…

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I then got off at Forest Park, to see Charles and Sarah, the

GREAT HORNED OWLS

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I watched both of them for a while, along with Mark, Brenda and others. The owls have, apparently, stashed some food in a hollow in this tree…

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Mark showed me a ceramic replica of an owl’s egg:

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I walked back in the dark, well satisfied with the day!

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For more photos from the park and Forest Park,

click here to see my Facebook album

Barn Owl Rescue, Thirukkadaiyur, 211211

December 23, 2011

A very eventful and enjoyable week, travelling in Kerala and then Tamil Nadu, attending, first, the COSTIIMA (Class of Seventy Three, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad) annual meet, which was held at Cocobay Resort, Kumarakom, Kerala…and then the Shashti Abdha Poorthi (60th birthday) of Anand, KM’s close friend and IIM classmate (a friendship that dates back to 1971!) and Devika, at the beautiful temple of Thirukkadaiyur, seat of Amrita Ghateeswarar and Abhirami.

However, that will all be described later. One of the good deeds that I performed was the rescue of a Barn Owl!

Right in front of the temple, as we were going in, this Barn Owl flew out into the open, in a befuddled state and sat on the ground:

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Immediately, I was alarmed to find that the crows started congregating, and a man started hitting the “bird of ill omen” as he called it, with a stick. The bird managed to avoid the man’s stick, but was just hopping out of reach:

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I then managed to catch the bird (I have the scratches to prove it!) and had the bright idea of putting it in the nearby old building which had a pay-and-use ladies’ toilet, where the men, the local urchins, and the crows could not get at it.

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I was rewarded, a little later, by the bird’s flying away through the front porch bars, to a heavy-foliage mango tree, where it seemed safe. I was very late for some of the Shashti abdha poorthi rites, but felt very happy about the rescue..otherwise, this bird would have been the main course for the crows’ breakfast!

Eagle Owl, Turahalli, 250911

September 26, 2011

A round dozen of us decided to go to Turahalli, yesterday morning (we’d also had a great time at the Zoo area on Saturday morning…. more about that later!)

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For the first hour or two, though the outing was really enjoyable and we sighted quite a variety of butterflies, the bird sightings were countable without using the fingers on the second hand! But of course, we had a treat in store. As we went on after climbing to the top of the hill, a vision sailed past us and landed on a rock to our left:

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It was beautifully backlit by the morning light of the eastern sky:

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Now, my friend Amith Kumar has raised a valid question. I’ve always known this bird as the

EURASIAN EAGLE OWL

(Bubo bubo)

but lo and behold, the Wiki does not list India as a territory for this bird at all!

Amith said that this was the

INDIAN EAGLE OWL

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the scientific name of which is Bubo bengalensis

….I had not known that there was such a classfication, and so I looked up the wiki entry.

So…what should this bird be called, I wonder?The surprising thing is that the bird books do not list anything called the Indian Eagle Owl, only the Eurasian Eagle Owl. I’ve asked the experts, and hope for a reply!

Here’s a short video of the magnificient bird (this must be a female)

Well, an owl by any other name is just as magnificient to behold, and we feasted our eyes on the sight of the huge bird, sitting comfortably, far enough away not to be bothered by us…right out in the open on a sunny morning, which is a rare thing to happen!

Two Great Horned Owls, Forest Park, 110711

July 12, 2011

The Great Horned Owls are some of the most stunning wildlife I’ve been observing in Forest Park.

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Since we couldn’t catch sight of the Great Horned Owls in Forest Park in the morning, Malvika and I met up with

Mark Glenshaw

in the evening at the Boat House in Forest Park:

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From across the road, in the stand of Cottonwood trees, at full zoom, I could see Charles, the male Owl:

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As we walked closer, the fading sunlight showed Charles with his wings opened in what I call “opening the coat”, an effort to keep cool in the nearly 100 deg F heat :

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A few more steps, wondering if we might disturb him:

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Closer we came:

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We then went over to our right, where Sarah was perched atop another tree:

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We got some views of her:

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We then circled around, and went into, the wooded area, looking for Dalton and Monica, but though we started hearing one of them vocalizing to the parents for food, we could not see them in the gathering dusk, and the heavy foliage.

However, I took this short video to show just how far away Charles actually was!

And here’s the wooded area, that we walked around in, with the fireflies twinkling in the dusk:

I was rather worried about chiggers and ticks (indeed, I do have a few bites which are itching abominably now) so we didn’t stay too long past dusk, and Malvika dropped both Mark and myself at our respective homes….I mut thank her, because otherwise, walking home from Forest Park after dark is a little iffy, safety-wise…and the temperature had not come down at all; we were all sticky and sweaty when we got into Malvika’s car afterwards!

Back to the Great Horned Owls….

May 29, 2011

I’d wanted to go and renew my acquaintanceship with the

Great Horned Owls of Forest Park

and emailed

Mark Glenshaw

That I’d meet him on Wednesday evening (25th)…but alas, the tornado warning, and the heavy rain and wind, put paid to the plans, and since he said he would be taking his friend Brenda (Frenda?) and a couple who were her neighbours, on an owl prowl on Thursday, I was at the Boat House meeting point at 6.30pm.

Mark introduced all of us to each other, and first of all, pointed out the nest that Charles and Sarah has finally chosen (out of three sites!) this year, in a large Cottonwood tree where they have nested before:

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It took rather a while to get a sighting of even the fist Owl (Dalton, the son of Charles and Sarah.)

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Monica, the female sibling of Dalton, flew in and out, but the light in what Mark calls the “wooded area” was already very low; but as we circled around later, we managed to spot both the parents as well.

Here’s Charles, looking quite majestic:

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As it was already ten past eight, I bid a reluctant good-bye to all of them, and walked back home in the deepening dusk, happy to have seen the Great Horned Owls once agin!

A morning with the Spotted Owlets at Lalbagh

May 13, 2011

It was an NTP outing…. I accompanied Radha and Shreeram to Lalbagh this morning.

We did see a lot of interesting things,but I want to first share our morning tryst with One,Two, and Three…the Spotted Owlets!

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We saw One first, on the Jacaranda tree…

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Left and right, went the poses.

The Two flew into the hole in the tree-trunk (probably it is a nest)

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From there, we got several looks:

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Then the two flew up to sit side by side, though, of course, one of them was mooning us:

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Then both decided to be rude:

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But they were happy together, preening each other:

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So of course, we circled round the tree to get a better view:

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They looked adorable:

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How much can one bend its head?

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Then THREE also appeared, sitting on a branch:

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We left them to themselves, very reluctantly indeed, these little feather-balls!

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More pics on Facebook,

here

The Mottled Wood Owl Post

December 3, 2007

Aha, everyone who is NOT interested in birding/birdwatching…off to the next post in the friends’ list please!

On Saturday, Anush,Arun,Jaimon, Krish,Mahesh and I went to Lalbagh. The object of our quest was the Mottled Wood Owl that many birders have recently seen in Lalbagh. Of course, Mrs Murphy never goes with high expectations, preferring to appreciate whatever comes her way…but this time, after we had done a lot of other birding (including the SSO’s…Sainath’s Spotted Owlets, for those with memories worse than mine…Golden Orioles, and so on) we went to the area where they were supposed to be, and found….one number Mottled Wood Owl,which, JUST as I reached the tree, was mobbed out of it by the crows! We stood disconsolately around for a few minutes until one of us had the idea of looking in the direction it had flown, and saw the owl, sitting in the casuarina tree nearby. The light was (of course…!) behind it, but I managed this picture…

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for more owl photography, click here