Birding Bloopers #15

Stephen Ambrose is a regular contributor to the Birding-Aus forum and he has also contributed to this series of posts on birding bloopers. His experience just goes to show several facts about birds:

  • Birds are unpredictable.
  • Birds do not read the field guides
  • Birds never follow your script
  • Birds convince you that you must expect the unexpected.

Here is Stephen’s account.

A single Powerful Owl had been recorded roosting by day in bushland adjacent to a major construction site in the Ryde/Lane Cove area of Sydney. The edge of the construction envelope was only 40 m from where the owl had been recorded roosting so, quite understandably, some local residents were concerned that construction activities (which were 18 hrs/day) would disturb both roosting and foraging behaviours of this owl.

This led to me being contracted by the construction company to monitor the use of the bushland by this and possibly other Powerful Owls over a period of several months as partial means of addressing the concerns of the public. The Powerful Owl in question was a young male which did not appear to have a mate or be part of a family group during the period of investigation. It continued to use the same roost site nightly for the 1st month of surveys, after which it disappeared. Four more months of surveys went by without encountering the owl at this roost site.

Eventually the time came for the construction company to begin its work. At this point I was asked to educate the construction workers about Powerful Owls (habitat requirements, general ecology, how to identify them by sight and sound, etc) as part of their worksite induction. Towards the end of the induction session I took the workers for a stroll through the bushland to show them where the owl had been roosting previously. On the way to this site I said to them confidently “we will not see the bird because it has not been there for the last 4 months, but it is useful to identify the area that should not be disturbed”. Famous last words – within 2 minutes of uttering them we arrived at the site and there was the roosting Powerful Owl with a partially eaten possum in its talons! The construction workers were highly amused and I was a little red-faced. The timing of its return could not have been better timed!

Two years down the track and the construction project has just been completed. A single Powerful Owl (possibly the same one) still uses that same roost site on and off. If it is the same bird, then it still doesn’t seem to have a mate.

Stephen Ambrose

My thanks to Stephen for contributing this amusing story.

To read more birding bloopers click here.

Question for readers:

When did you experience an embarrassing birding moment? Perhaps it was a mistaken identification. Perhaps you didn’t look carefully enough and were later proved wrong. Maybe the bird itself fooled you in some way.

I invite readers to submit their birding bloopers in the comments section below. If it’s good enough I might just feature it in a post of its own, with a link back to your blog (if you have one).


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