Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Owls seen on my world birding trips

From being a little kid until 2011, I was an avid birder. I travelled a lot trying to rack up a big life list. During this time, I always made an effort to find owls, because they are beautiful and hard to see. This entry chronicles the owls I saw during these travels. Beginning in 2011, I gave up on trying to see all the birds in the world and narrowed my focus to search for the owls of the world. Descriptions of the trips dedicated to owling can be read in individual Trip Report entries on this blog.
1982 Yugoslavia, the whole family saw a little owl along a dirt road at night. (At the time I thought it was a Scops owl).

1985 South of France I heard an eagle owl, and found a feather!
1980s Mediteranean scops owl
1986 Australia Tasmanian masked owl flew in front of my parents VW camper at night.
Southern boobook, seen in mainland southeastern Australia.
Tasmanian boobook, Tasmania.
Barking owl, seen in New south wales in 1985.

China 1986 Eagle owl, two birds roosting in a forest east of Canton.
February-March 1991 Malaysia Brown wood-owl at Mt Kinabalu above Poring hot springs along Mempening Trail.
Barred eagle-owl, seen in 1991 in Sabah.
Brown hawk-owl Gunung Mulu national park, Sarawak.
Buffy Fishing owl, seen at near caves at Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak. Flushed in day time. Late afternoon after a recent thunderstorm. Seen minutes after a wonderful Garnet Pitta.
1988 Australia Barking owl Northern Territory.
April 1991 India, Indian scops owl a roosting bird by the tea shop pointed out to me by a guide at Bharatpur.
Spotted owlet in Northern India.
Rock eagle-owl also somewhere in India on this trip.
Jungle owlet, seen in Goa.
April-May 1991 Nepal, Himalayan wood owl, brown wood-owl and spotted owlet.
June-July 1991 Penninsular Malaysia, Barred eagle-owl.
Mountain scops owl seen at Frasier's Hill, with Andrew Lawson.
Aug 1991 Thailand, Spot-bellied eagle owl at Doi Inthanon. Collared owlet, seen in SE Asia in 1991.
Dec 1991 Gambia, Grayish Eagle-owl. Paid a forest guard in Gambia to show us a pair of roosting birds in gallery forest.
Northern white-faced scops owl-spotlighted in a coconut grove in the Gambian coast.
Pearl-spotted owlet also seen on this trip.
March-April 1992 Venezuala, Burrowing owl was seen in cactus desert near Valencia.
Ferruginous pygmy owl, first seen in Henri Pittier National Park.
July 1992 Kenya, Verreaux's eagle owl seen near Lake Naivasha.
August 1994 Mexico American barn owl at San Blas fort.
April 1998 Costa Rica, I was shown a pair of Spectacled owls by a guide at El Gavilan Lodge near La Selva.

January 1999 Mexico. Great-horned owl seen at Almoloya del Rio (Lerma Marshes).
Ridgeway's pygmy owl at Colonia Francisco Barrios
August 1999 Mexico, Colima pygmy-owl-Seen near San Blas, Nayarit. The bird was originally heard in large canopy trees in a shade grown coffee plantation. It's song is to repeated call a series of whistles, each series is one longer than the rest, five whistles, six whistles, seven whistles etc. I imitated the bird clumsily and by the sixteenth whistle I was getting very out of breath. I was surprised and thrilled to see Colima pygmy-owl fly between to large trees with it's distinct undulating flight.
Febuary-March 2002 Philippines, Palawan scops owl was taped in by Arnel Mallari at Iwahig penal farm.
Spotted wood owl was seen at dusk in the suburbs of Puerto Pricessa.
Eastern grass owl seen in March 2002 at dusk at the airfield serving PICOP in eastern Mindanao in the Philippines. It was seen only after several hours of wading through a swamp adjacent to the airport. Luzon hawk-owl at  Makiling and Rajah Sikatuna NP next to the cabins.
Lowland luzon scops owl at Mt Makiling by the start of the trail.
Mindanao Eagle-owl was seen near the "lodge" on Mount Katinglad, Mindanao, after dark.

August/September 2003 Indonesia, Barn owl seen east of Surabaya and at Mauro Angke.
Sulawesi masked owl I spent a couple of nights looking for this bird. I eventually was taken to a roost site by a guide named Freddie at Tangkoko Nature Reserve. The owl was roosting on a sea cliff. I had to climb from a small boat onto the cliff, and then scale the cliff to a small cave. The cave was guarded by large red ants, who stung me severely before I could get a great close up view of a roosting bird. Having had enough ant bites, I jumped off the cliff and swam back to the boat. I felt quite smug that my companion, an uptight Englishman, didn't see the owl, but was treated to a view of my hairy balls hanging from a hole in my boxer shorts.
Sumba boobook. On a wonderful full moon I went with a guide Freddy Hambuwali, by his quite fast scooter from Waingapu to Lewa. We had tapes and soon were able to lure a Sumba boobook. Freddie left me in the clearing that night. He warned me that the local people feared foreigners, because of the days when the dutch came to Sumba to catch slaves. Despite this, the night was so beautiful, and the owling so perfect that it was impossible to remain anxious. I camped conspicuously atop of a small grassy hill under the splendid moon.
Little Sumba hawk-owl. After another 30 minutes of owling Freddy and I were able to tape out the recently discovered Little Sumba Hawk-Owl.
Sunda scops. Seen from taxi in farmland in south Sumatra. Later seen at Gunung Gede with guide who claimed it as a Javan scops.
Wallace's scops. See at dawn at a mountain lake in central west Flores.
Sulawesi scops. Taped at night at Tangkoko Nature Reserve in north Sulawesi.
Moluccan scops owl. Taped in at Halmahara.
Spot-bellied eagle owl. Seen at Gunung Kerinci in Sumatra.
Southern boobook. Seen east of Kupang, Timor, while camping in limestone foothills.
September 2001 Madagascar, African marsh owl-first bird of the trip at Tana airport-seen when disembarking! Also seen at Vohiparara.
Tarakoro scops owl seen at Ampiparoa and Zombitse.
Madagascar scops owl at Masoala and Perinet.
Madagascar hawk-owl seen in Zombitse in southwest Madagascar, after a long night hike. Lots of spear carrying men surrounded the car that had given me a ride for the final few miles.
Madagascar long-eared owl at Perinet.
October 2005 Brasil, with Shawn Coyle and Torquil Grant. Burrowing owl a whole family seen at the restinga antwren site near Cabo Frio, just NW of Rio. Burrowing owl also seen at Sooretama, Pedra Talhada, by the roadside in Pernambuco, Chapada Araripe, en route to Lencois and at Boa Nova.
Tawny browed owl-taped and day roost birds at Nova Lombardia.
Tropical screech owl seen before dawn after taping at Sooretama reserve.
Variable screech owl seen before dawn after taping at Sooretama reserve.
Black-banded owl at Una.
American Barn owl was seen by the roadside in Pernambuco and en route to Lencois
Ferruginous pygmy owl seen high in the canopy, being mobbed at Camaca, in Bahia.

August 2005 Mexico, Mexican Mottled owl. After 20 minutes of taping, I started to give up. Dawn was rapidly approaching, and I was unable to climb the bank to get closer to the owl. I eventually started to pick up small rocks from the road side and throw them near the calling owl, in an attempt to flush to bird into view. In the dawn's gloam, I saw a larger white stone and reached for it. "Ahh", the white stone was a wet puddle of toilet paper! Undeterred I continued to throw small stones at the lone tree, until the owl flew from the tree.
November 2006 Peru, American barn owl at Lomas de Lachay.
Burrowing owl seen near Lago Junin.
Peruvian pygmy-owl at Siniscap, Peru seen on a wire in late afternoon. Also seen above at Batan Grand and Santa Eulalia also on wire.
Tumbes screech-owl, at Quebrada Frejolillo, Limon, Peru. Taped at night with George Wagner. We also heard striped owls in the distance.
June 2007 Barn owl seen en route with Tom Linda from Juarez to Madera.
January 2008 Ecuador Black and white owl predawn bird spot-lighted in mist at Buenaventura, Ecuador. Also at Cerro Blanco (Chongon Hills, near Guayaquil),in a gully day roost.
Peruvian pygmy-owl was seen at both edge of mangroves near Guayaquil and just north of Loja at high elevation (on a wire, in a small village).
American barn owl and burrowing owl seen from the car on the drive towards Cerro Mingus in Ecuador with Shaun. American barn owl was also seen at Yanococha.
I found a beautiful Great horned owl roosting in a grove of Podocarpus at Las Cajas.
Vermiculated (Choco) screech owl, shaken from a tree (after very extensive taping) at Canande' (banded ground-cuckoo) reserve.
Crested owl, Shawn showed me a day roosting bird in bamboo at Canande' (banded ground-cuckoo) reserve. We had heard birds singing the previous night, but had been unable to lure them in by tape.
April 2008 Jamaica, a Jamaican owl, seen at the Gap. Taped, then spotlighted in an old roadside quarry after being seen flying by in the Echo's headlights.
Barn owl also seen at the Gap, Treasure Beach and Elim Ponds.
January 2009 Colombia,  Rufous-banded owl, taped at the Colibri Del Sol reserve, spotlighted in open snag by the river, then seen at Rio Blanco at night-taped with Shaun (he missed the first bird). Finally seen in car headlights at Monterredonde at first light from the car as we drove to the Cundamarca antpitta site.
Riohacha-Great-horned owl and ferruginous pygmy owl were seen.
Santa Marta screech owl taped with difficulty above the lodge at Santa Marta. Subsequently spotlighted twice a little higher up the road.
Colombian screech owl shown by a guide at Arrietrito Antioqueno Reserve, Anori, Antioquia. Tropical screech owl was also seen at this site.
April 2009 Dominican Republic Ashy-faced owl, seen northeastern Dominican Republic. Taken to a nest site in farmland, after dark by a guide working for a local hotel.
Burrowing owl was seen enar Puerto Escondido and near Baharrona.
Stygian Owl. I found pellets at a water tank in SW Dominican republic, near Haiti. I waited in the car until dusk, when I heard a low deep hoot. Thankfully I had brought with me a recording of Stygian Owl. I played a tape once, and the bird immediately flew into a pine tree. I was able to spotlight this magnificent owl for a few seconds before it flew away. best bird of the trip.
Febuary-March 2010 Philippines, Mantanani scops owl seen on a small island, near Puerto Princessa, Palawan, Philippines. Came into a tape after dark. 
Chocolate boobook. Seen in the daytime at Siburan Penal colony, Mindoro with Shawn. Roosting on a telephone wire!

Owling in Britain


I was born Wales and raised in Cumbria. This entry details the owls I can recollect from my childhood, plus those I saw when I returned home to visit with my family.


Spring 1980 (?) I saw a daytime barn owl at Bass Lake. This was a banner day for me because I also saw a buzzard, Kestrel and sparrowhawk (attacking a greater spotted woodpecker) on the same outing.
1981 (?) I was biking through Tallentire with my friend Mark Pattinson, when we saw a daytime barn owl. Around this time I began hearing and occasionally finding Tawny owls at Brigham quarry. Mark and I also found one roosting in a small limestone quarry between Brigham and Eaglesfield.
1982 I was shown a little owl by John Callion near Siddick.
1984 My friend Mark and I found a fantastic short-eared owl hunting in frosty fields at the back of Siddick Pond.
Oct 1987 I biked across from Peterborough to Kings Lynn, and found a little owl in farm land at dusk.
I found several short-eared owls and one long-eared owl along Blakney Point-recently arrived migrants from Scandinavia.

June 1989 My friend Greg Lowther and I made a pilgrimage to Fetlar to look for an old female snowy owl. Years back a pair of snowies had nested on Fetlar. Subsequently the male bird had died, but the old female remained faithful to the site and returned for many years.

We took the train to Thurso, then biked and ferried to Orkney. On Orkney we were treated to wonderful views of short-eared owls. From Orkney we ferried up to Shetland and mad our way by bike and ferry to Fetlar. We soon found owl owl, and had fantastic views of the bird hunting by day over open grasslands.

18th Feb 1990. Dad and I were returning from a hike on a winter's afternoon near Newton Stewart in SW Scotland during February half term, when we saw a daytime hunting barn owl.

May 1990 Near Loch Lomand I saw a short-eared owl hunting with mam and dad.

Home visits

September 2010 Tui and I borrowed my parents camper and took a trip to the Mull of Kintyre. Opposite Jura we found a short-eared owl quartering over salt-marsh. Even without bins we got amazing views in the lovely evening light of this wonderful owl. 

8.17.11 As soon as Charlie was old enough to travel, Tui and I took him home to England to visit with mam and dad. It was a strange trip because mam had been diagnosed with melanoma and was quite sick. 

I went owling down Isel road with dad. We heard a female tawny followed by a male. I spent half an hour in a dense thicket, before hearing a male very near by. Responding to the tape it landed above me and allowed brief views in the torch beam. Another male was also calling nearby. (Dad had long since given up).

8.18.11 Tried for little owl near Daltson with a local birder; Jeremy. We only heard one distant tawny owl.

8.19.11 Dad and I drove out to Trudy's place by Gilcrux. We heard a juvenile barn owl calling from the nest box. While driving home dad spotted a barn owl flying up the A595 and across a field.

8.23.11 Tui and I were returning from Castle Rigg and while driving along the bottom of Bassenthwaite lake we saw a Barn owl perched atop of a hedge. We saw the owl quite well in the van's headlights.

8.25.11 went owling with Fi and Ed at Wimbledon Common. We were trying for little owl. (I initially wanted top try at Richmond Park, but it's closed at night). We failed to hear little owl, but did see a curious badger and heard a pair of Tawnys. Despite a lot of taping and bright city skies, we could not lay eyes on a tawny.

3.21.12 By now my mam was really sick with Melanoma. Her memory of recent events was shockingly sparse.  Charlie and I visited with her and dad in Cumbria. 

After puting Charlie to bed, Dad and I drove to Sunderland hoping to find tawny owls by the roadside. Along the straightaway, past the big wood, on the way to Sunderland. A tawny owl flew over the car.

5.17.12 A few days ago I spoke with Fi, who explained to me that mam was dieing and that I should return home soon if I wanted to see her one last time. I flew into Heathrow and stayed the night with Fi and Ed. The next day I drove up to Cumbria in a rental. I stopped for a pee off of the A1 at Barrister Lane, and flushed a little owl in day light.

5.19.12 Dad and I went to visit Trudy and Michael at Bridekirk. We arrived just after 7pm, and after a few minutes, and still two hours before sunset a male barn owl peered out of the nest box. A few minutes later he hopped out of the box and clambered onto the branch below the box. For a minute he moved his head side to side, before he started vigorously preening for ten minutes. He then flew off past the window. Amazing views.

5.20.12  I got up at five and headed out the door. At the Bridekirk junction I saw a barn owl perched on the road sign-probably the same bird that we had seen last night at Trudy's. I drove on to Broughton Moor and hiked around looking for short-eared owl. Eventually I flushed a barn owl from one of the dumps old munitions buildings. Soon I was enjoying excellent views of a pair of barn owls, both perched and hunting. the male was incredibly white in the bright sun.

A little after ten, just as it was getting quite dark I walked out to the house and down the Ghyll. In response to playing a male's call I got a ''Kerwick'' response. We called back and forth for a couple of minutes a I approached the bird, but eventually it fell silent. I walked down the footpath along the Ghyll to the clearing, where I heard a male bird singing. I tried taping and approaching the bird, but it was tricky due to thick noisy vegetation. I eventually saw a couple of fly-by silhouettes, before getting a nice view of a brown male singing. By this time I had 3-4 birds around me, all close. 3 where males singing with a fourth (?) ''Kerwicking.''

5.31.12 My mam died on Memorial day weekend. A couple of days later I returned home to be with Dad and Fi. Fi, Ed and I walked down the Ghyll. We heard but could not see a tawny owl.

6.3.12 I awoke at 130am thinking about mam. I drove out to Broughton Moor. I tried for Tawny and Little owl, but to no avail. I did flush a beautiful barn owl from an old building. It was a cold windy morning, completely different from my visit ten days ago, when mam was still alive. On the way home I stopped at Trudy's and saw another barn owl peering from the box. Soon after it hopped outside and preened itself for ten minutes.

6.4.12 I awoke at 230am and left home and dad. I arrived in Geltsdale around 330 AM. By the time it was fully light, a pair of short-eared owls were intermittently climbing to 500', then descending back down to the ground. The female was conspicuously moulting-probably the inner most primary. Wonderful birds.

9.24.13. Charlie and I took a trip home to visit with Dad and Fi. At my dad's house in Blindcrake, Cumbria, I taped for a tawny owl. I saw a Tawny owl fly between some ash trees in the Ghyll at the bottom of his garden. Lower down in the Ghyll I heard a second owl singing.

9.25.13 Charlie, Dad and I visited Mike and Julie Porter in Wigton, Cumbria. Mike showed us an Oak in a field, where he had seen a little owl six months ago. Remarkably the bird flew up into a fork in the tree and Julie and I were both able to see it briefly.

9.27.13 Charlie, Dad and I heard a tawny owl calling at the bottom of his garden.9.29.13, I heard a tawny owl calling to the north side of dad's house for an hour before our early morning departure for Manchester.