Sunday, November 26, 2006

Masked Owl--Truganini Reserve

I was sitting in front of my PC first thing this morning, contemplating where I might go birding, even in the light rain and overcast conditions, when I received an e-mail from Bill & Els. The gist of the message was that a Masked Owl had been found by Kerry Williams, a visiting birder from Adelaide, in the Truganini Reserve at Taroona. So the decision where to go was made for me! Off to Taroona. I had directions from the e-mail, although it didn't mention how far in to go, and for some reason I expected it to be close to the entrance! After I'd walked a kilometre or so, I was beginning to have doubts whether I'd find the Owl, however I soon found the marker, but no Owl. Fortunately another early morning walker arrived and after a general discussion on birds, turned, pointed, and then asked me what the large bird up there was. Obviously someone with far superior eyesight to mine, for there, as you will have guessed, was the Owl, some distance, but still in the general vicinity of where Bill had seen it.
I've never been very satisfied by photographs I've taken of Owls, perhaps, in part, it's the fact that they've usually asleep, and there is only so many ways to photograph them. This Masked Owl was no
different, and the difficulty was to find a way to take shots without too much vegetation getting in the way. At one stage it was very much awake and started to stretch its' wings, as you can see in the lower image, but this action only alarmed me as I thought it might be the precursor to taking flight. It also spent a deal of time preening, delicately passing feathers through its bill, as it straightened them. Despite our presence it finally went back to a rather fidgety sleep, puffing itself up to preserve warmth. Shortly after leaving another birder approached, Ron Spencer, who I'd spoken to on the phone several times, but never met in person. The grapevine was working well!
I've omitted giving precise directions to where the bird's roosting, but if anyone requires information on where these shots were taken, you're welcome to contact me at the e-mail address. Thanks once again to Bill & Els for the timely information.

12 comments:

Murray Lord said...

Quite a bit paler on the face than the bird we saw last year, isn't it? I assume this is an older bird.

John Tongue said...

We found at least three spots around there today with lots of droppings splashed about the rocks and ground. Obviously it has a number of favoured roosts in this vicinity. I'm told Bill Wakefield saw a bird roosting in almost the same place around 30 years ago, so it's clearly a spot worth trying if people are looking for Masked Owl - it didn't seem very perturbed by lots of people walking the track on a beautiful day today.

Duncan said...

What a bird!

BirdingTas said...

We may not have the quantity, Duncan, but we do have some quality birds! Of course,it could be that I'm a little biased.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Murray, It does appear to have a lighter face disk than the Sandy Bay bird from last year, even though they were taken in different light conditions. Do they get lighter with age?

John Tongue said...

It is a beautiful bird! My daughter was calling it a "Jellybean" bird, because it's got almost no tail, and wings longer than tail, so with being rounded both ends id does look something like a jellyben - only with those talons and that beak!!

We couldn't see the talons so well, but your shot of it stretching, Alan, really shows what lethal weapons they must be!

John Tongue said...

It was reported today as being back at the site first marked by Bill Wakefield, down the track a little.

Murray Lord said...

I checked what HANZAB said about the plumages. It suggests they don't get paler with age; that the birds are variable but in the Tasmanian subspecies the paler birds are more often males.

When I sent the photo of last year's Sandy Bay bird to Nick Mooney he said "I would say female for sure from the heavy build and likely a young adult/late immature. Juveniles are more buff coloured and old hens darker". Might be worth asking him what he thinks on this one.

John Tongue said...

In resonse to Murray's comments, I flet that this bird was a little smaller than last year's Sandy Bay bird, which would suggest it was female, and this male.

Justin & Danitsja said...

What a bird. Thanks John for the directions! A real stunner!

Justin Jansen & Danitsja Stapel!

John Tongue said...

Hi Justin,
Glad you had a good time in Tasmania, and I hope you and Danitsja got back home safely. Have a great Christmas!

S. McNeill said...

Still there 18 Dec 06