Sunday, February 24, 2008

Revenge of the Barn Owl

We had arrived at Point Calimere in the evening and were awaiting a phone call from the BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) representative (more on that later) to watch them band shorebirds that they had caught that day. After we had supper in a thatch hut not much larger than the average bathroom in America, we decided to drive around some of the roads and see if we could find any owls or nightjars. Shortly after we began we spotted a Barn Owl that was perched on a telephone pole that was very cooperative and even with the darkness and no tripod, I managed a decent photo of the bird (see above). The owl was slowing working its way down a sandy road that led to the coast and we followed this obliging bird enjoying the extended views we were getting of it as it stalked prey on foot and was actively foraging. Once the bird flew we continued along this sandy road and as we progressed it became obvious that if we stopped we were going to get stuck as the sand was getting deeper and looser. Relton continued on until we were a stone’s throw from the Bay of Bengal and we hit a tidal channel that we definitely didn’t want to get stuck in! At this point he attempted to reverse and get the rear-wheel drive SUV turned around so we could go back the way we came. This is when I suspect the Barn Owl was enjoying some sweet vengeance for disturbing his hunting and taking his photo without giving him any sort of compensation (I think the same rules apply to birds as celebrities where if they are in a public place then they are fair game to paparazzi, but good luck explaining that to an owl that probably has connections with the Tamil Tigers and has led your vehicle into a literal sand trap…). The moon was full, the wind was rolling in off the bay, and the beach would have all been extremely pleasant setting if we weren’t standing in front of an SUV that was buried up to its axels in sand… We did manage to get it out by a combination of digging, pushing, and good fortune.

Earlier in the day we had birded our way out to the coast and had several nice photo ops with several species including one of my favorite birds, Common Hoopoe. The odd combination of physical features of this very unique bird make it difficult even to describe, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let this photo do the talking…

Another bird that is unique due to the extremely long length of its tail was also well seen in the garden of some relations of Relton that we ate lunch with. The bird (Asian Paradise Flycatcher, yes quite a mouthful) was begging to be photographed as it sat still for over five minutes and I got some nice shots of it, if only there wasn’t a brick wall in the background!

We had started the morning along the banks of a large river near Trichy and had primarily been looking for several species of cuckoos that are present there. We did see two Plaintive Cuckoos and one Indian Cuckoo (both new for me) along with the much more common Asian Koel, Common Hawk, and Pied Cuckoos. Shortly thereafter we also observed a pair of Ashy Woodswallows perched on a telephone wire right next to the road. This is the same species that I’ve been seeing infrequently at Kariavetti and this was by far the best look I’ve had of this species.


Anonymous said...

Brian McD, I loved your photos for two reasons: the barn owl is one of my favorite raptors & two, the Hoopoe has interfaith connections. They are lovely photos. Although in the Bible the Hoopoe is a dirty bird, a victim of the purity codes, in the Quran, the Hoopoe links the kingdoms of Solomon & Queen Sheba (Yemen). When a dear friend of mine returned home to the Middle East I gave her a Hoopoe (Hud-Hud in Arabic) photo to humorously remind her of our shared spirituality. I wonder if you would give me permission to use your night barn owl photo to make a US postage stamp out of

Check it out for photos (no I get no revenues or kickbacks....I am a psych nurse who birds to relax in creation.

Enjoy your birding and life, Brian. Patti O, Brooklyn, NY

Sean Fitzgerald said...

Hello Brian,
Thanks for the added insight into the hoopoe - I had no idea...
Feel free to use the barn owl photo for your stamps.
Thanks for reading my blog!

Shiva Shankar said...

Nice to see the photos of these winged beauties of nature. Thank you for sharing.