Laying eyes on powerful owl

Collared sparrowhawk. 154326

AT LAST there has been some decent rain over the past few weeks, which has been a relief.
There have been some glorious balmy sunny days mixed with a few wet ones- just perfect autumn weather.
The biggest highlight for me over the past few weeks was to finally lay eyes on a magnificent and endangered powerful owl.
A few years ago I noticed on Birdline Victoria that there were two powerful owls seen several times along the river in Newstead, near Castlemaine, so when I had a day off work I drove to Newstead determined to see them, to no avail. Then I read on Birdline soon after that there were powerful owls in Williamstown, in the plane trees near the Shipyards, so on several occasions I drove down to see them, again to no avail. Then last year there were two powerful owls at Ironbark Basin, near Point Addis, so once again I regularly visited the area and attempted to find them, to no avail. Powerful owls are 55cms long, so if they are present they should be relatively easy to spot I thought to myself every time I tried to see one.
So when I read on Birdline Victoria a few weeks ago that there were two powerful owls frequenting the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, I told the family that my Mother’s Day present would be a trip to the Botanics to see the owls. I met some other keen birdwatchers looking for the owls, and we couldn’t find them- not one trace. I checked Birdline a few days later and the birds were still at the Botanical Gardens, so I thought to myself “rightio Jennifer, it’s about time you got your act together here and do not leave the Botanics until you are successful“
So on my next day off work, another trip to Melbourne was undertaken. I walked around and around Fern Gully, and saw plenty of beautiful birds, but no powerful owls. Then I had a bright (and very overdue) idea to ask two garden employees for some hints on how to find them, and they pointed me to a few trees opposite Fern Gully. It took a while to find an owl, as the one I saw was very high up in a tree, behind a few branches. It’s amazing that such a big bird can make discovery very difficult; as they are very clever at hiding and camouflaging. I was very grateful to at last set eyes on such a magnificent creature.
Powerful owls are the largest of the Australian nocturnal birds. Their feathers are grey-brown with white barring. Their eyes are yellow and they have huge yellow/orange feet with very sharp talons. The female is smaller, with a narrower head (their head is small in proportion to their body anyway).
When I saw the powerful owl at the Botanics, I was expecting piercing yellow eyes to be staring down at me, but the eyes looked brown. The bird was under a thick canopy of trees and it was quite dark, so I couldn’t see the colours that well, and consequently my photos were ordinary, so I will have to go down yet again on a clear day and try to say hello to the owls again.
I went to a great talk given by Craig Morley about migratory shorebirds sponsored by the Bellarine Landcare Group. The talk was given on World Migratory Bird Day on 11 May. It’s great that the Bellarine Landcare Group organise such interesting and informative information sessions. We are fortunate to live in an area where migratory shorebirds can be seen. The numbers of these birds are rapidly decreasing due to habitat destruction, which is just terrible.
I received a lovely email and photo from Susanne from Wallington, who found a raptor (and a half-eaten dove) in her chook pen and managed to take a photo. I think that the raptor is a collared sparrowhawk, as it has very long legs, a wide-eyed expression (rather than a brown goshawk beetle brow), and a square shaped tail rather than a goshawk rounded tail. I stand to be corrected, but I am pretty sure that Susanne’s raptor is a collared sparrowhawk, I am happy to report that her chooks survived the intrusion of the raptor into their home, but I bet they were pretty shaken up.
I also received an email from Susan who has also had a blue budgerigar visit her garden. There may be a few escapees out there in the wilds of Ocean Grove, hopefully all living happily with a flock of sparrows as reported by Coral a few months ago!
Jen Carr,