Last night we had a wonderful visitor to our garden. Just before we turned on the television we heard the unmistakeable call of a Southern Boobook Owl in our garden. I immediately grabbed a powerful torch and head outside. Unfortunately the bird not only stopped calling, it must have flown off. I searched a few of the trees where I thought that the sound had been coming from but to no avail. Never mind, it was good to hear it and know that this species is still around.
It was a special visitor because we are so infrequently aware of this species of owl in our garden or in our little patch of mallee scrub about 80km east of Adelaide, South Australia. We actually hear it only a few times a year – at best. I guess we should switch off the television more often. Or perhaps I should head off with a torch and walk the “estate” more often – all five acres of it!
Because the bird we heard last night did not hang around very long, there was no opportunity to grab the camera for a photo. The photo above – possibly the same bird – was taken in one of our trees a year or so ago. On that occasion the bird obligingly posed for two photos.
Update October 13th: we heard it again this evening. This time it was closer to the house and we had a good view of it – twice in a few days is special.
Other nocturnal birds
Below is a list of nocturnal birds I have recorded on our property. Click on each to go to articles and photos of them.
A few night ago we were suddenly aware of the familiar call of a Southern Boobook owl quite close to our house. I only took a few moments to locate it in the large tree next to our clothes line. I didn’t bother getting out the camera to get some photos because the last time I saw one in our garden I got the photo shown above. It is quite possibly the same bird.
It has been some time since we heard a Boobook in our garden; usually we have the television going at night and that tends to drown out the night sounds. On this occasion we had both been working on cleaning out the office, so the television was off. Perhaps we should do that more often!
Much to our delight we heard it calling again the following night. It would be lovely to be able to call it a resident bird present nearly every night, instead of just an occasional visitor every few years. It is quite welcome to move in and can have all the mice it can catch while it stays.
A few nights ago I was collecting our mail from the local post office at about 10:30pm (don’t ask why I was getting the mail so late at night – it’s another story). As I emerged from the car I was delighted to hear the distinctive call of a Boobook Owl nearby. The sound was probably coming from the trees near back of the Town Hall, or perhaps the nearby railway station. I didn’t have a torch with to track it down, nor did I have a camera with me, so I’ve used the photo of one I took in our garden a few months ago.
I guess I was a little surprised at first to hear an owl right there a few steps from the town’s CBD. When I thought about it the owl was probably resident in that area for a very good reason: food. Around the various shops and businesses and several schools within 500 metres, the pickings would have been good. Rats and mice abound in the area so it would probably not be going hungry. About ten years ago some students in the school in which I was teaching noticed one in the tree at the front of the school and pointed it out to me. Nice to know it’s surviving in this location.
The Tawny Frogmouth has a special place in our family folklore. Back in the mid 1980s we were camped in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in north west Victoria. We were right next to Lake Hattah, a lovely camping spot and place full of interesting birds. On this occasion we were disturbed around midnight by an “um-um-um-um” sound in the distance – or so we thought. Imaging the worst we feared someone had a portable generator, something forbidden in most Australian national parks. It really annoyed us.
Just as we were retiring the following night we heard the noise again. My attention was drawn to a dark shape in the tree just above our tent. Sitting there quite at home was our “generator”, a Tawny Frogmouth calling. This was the first time I’d heard this bird calling. And it kept on calling for a long time but we slept soundly, now knowing where the noise was coming from.
We occasionally have this species in our garden which is great. We don’t often hear it calling due to other noises – such as the television. My latest encounter with the species was at the Visitor Centre of the Innes National Park. We were paying our entry fees and I saw the lovely bird (shown above) sitting on display on the counter. A beautiful bird.
Sad to think that its um-um-umming days are over.
Just as we were heading off to bed last night we heard a Southern Boobook Owl calling. It was calling persistently, even when I went up close to it with a torch. I raced back inside for the camera and managed two reasonable photos before it silently flew off again.
This owl species is wide spread throughout Australia where suitable habitat exists. Its call is familiar to many people but the bird is not as often seen. It has been quite a while since we last had one calling in our garden.
Other nocturnal species I have recorded in our garden over the years include:
- Barn Owl
- Australian Owlet-nightjar
- Spotted Nightjar
- Tawny Frogmouth