Sunday, May 09, 2010

Magical Encounters With Spotted Wood Owls

A friend urged me to go look for the Spotted Wood Owls and the encounters these past two days were magical.
The Spotted Wood Owl (Strix Seloputo) is of the earless owl genus Strix. The other earless owl is the Barn Owl that is also found in Singapore. The Spotted Wood Owl is found throughout South East Asia except on the island of Borneo.
Not having seen a Spotted Wood Owl before, there was a certain amount of anticipation and excitement for me as I drove to the location. Typically, I start with a reconnaissance trip to check out the area. The late afternoon trip yielded no owl but I got my bearings.
Went back the next morning with a friend to continue my search. We spotted a lone owl almost immediately and we back tracked to get our gear. Wow! I finally have a Spotted Wood Owl, the largest owl in Singapore in my sight. This species is considered critically endangered here (source: Singapore’s Red Data Book 2008). It is believed that there is a small population of over twenty birds left here. The main reason why there are so few of these nocturnal raptors is because of habitat destruction. These birds need wooded or forested areas with a healthy food source.
The bird we spotted is a juvenile and it was good news indeed that a pair of adults have successfully raised a young owl.
The juvenile stared at us from its high perch before it settled down to sleep. While we waited for it to rouse from its nap, we caught a large shadow above us but we couldn’t see the bird.
As we hung around and chatted, movement in the canopy made us raise our head to look. Silence fell upon the group as we watched a Spotted Wood Owl swop down to land on a branch. It was huge. As we scrambled to move our cameras to catch the second bird on our sensors, a third owl swoops in. Mom and Pop have come to the tree to check on junior. Both adults were awesome to watch with their huge wing spans.
Today, decided to try my luck again. Spotted two raptors sitting high up in the tree in two different location almost immediately. As I gazed up the third bird flies in to join one of the birds.
What I witnessed next was very touching, the two birds showed affection for each other. I wonder if the two were the adults showing affection for each other or parent caring for its fledgling. There was no flight action today, the three birds just settled in and went to sleep in 30 minutes. Shortest trip ever but I had got a shot nobody else has, and I came away  from this encounter with a lot of respect for these birds.