Finding one owl is difficult enough, so trying to see four or five was never going to be easy. That said, my past experience shows me that with persistence and time in the field, plus a little bit of luck, it is possible to see four or five of them in a single day/night. I find it does not help finding the birds the day prior to the outing as all the owls¹ have a number of regular roost sites, so there is no guarantee they will be at any one of them the following day. To make things even more difficult two of them roost in hollows, making it impossible to see them unless you are prepared to go around tapping every hollow trying to flush them, a practice I do not condone. This leaves us two options, playing taped calls at night hoping for a response, or spotlighting along the road hoping to see one by chance. We did plenty of this over the weekend with a certain amount of success.
Boobook Owl by Neil Fifer
I’m sure we all enjoyed the thrill of being out at night under a perfect starry sky and listening to the night calls of Australian Owlet-nightjar, Southern Boo Book as well as Spotted Marsh Frog, Whistling Tree Frog. Normally you would expect to hear many more calls than we heard, but not even the blowing of a Brush tail Possum or the barking of a fox was heard. The only other night sound some of us heard was the yapping of a Sugar Glider just before retiring. Repeated playing of taped calls failed to produce the desired result except for the Owlet-nightjar which did fly in for a closer look but we failed to see it until the following day when we saw one sunning itself at the entrance to its roost site in Cattai Park. The high lights of the outing without doubt were seeing the beautiful Barn Owl at St Albans which gave us long and close views. I am very grateful to the driver of the passing car which caused the owl to fly across the road otherwise we may not have seen it.
Owlet-nightjar by Neil Lazarus
Summing up, the accommodation I found delightful, and dinner beside an open fire with a glass of red with great company concluded a great day. I must not forget the birthday cake in honour of young Allan, may he have many more. Would have liked to see a couple of the other owls and it would be great if we could try this owling weekend again next year, I am confident we can achieve a much better result, so if you are interested let Janene know.
Keith Brandwood guiding for FTB