There have been several reports on Birdline of a Powerful Owl down along the Willamstown foreshore trees, actually on the Willi Limp- Latte strip to be precise. When my mate Richard, he of Woodlands Historic Park bird lists, popped up a report, it was time to go investigate.
Now we had a bit of family business in the area today, and I dropped a line to Mr An Onymous to see if he’d like to be added to the list of intrepid Owl seekers, together with the promise of coffee afterward and in a shake, he was ready to go.
The Powerful Owl is a pretty big bird, and I know a couple of things about them. A) they are quite dangerous to possums, gulls and humans, not necessarily in that order. B) they tend to sit high up in trees with a good canopy cover during daylight hours with the remains of last nights hunting foray clinging to the perch, and C), they have serious hardware attached to end of their legs, which enables them to hold on to said perch, and to grasp whatever has been on the menu.
So, as the Banjo said, So we went.
The report had the owl in a Plane Tree, near BAE, the ship building company in Williamstown, they build big things with sharp bits and hot heavy bits either attached to the top or the sides. The Australian Navy seems to favour that sort of arrangement and has been a constant customer.
When we got there, BAE takes up quite the bit of real-estate on the shoreside of the road. And there were a number of Plane trees on show. We, probably read, “I” decided that where we parked the car would be where we’d start. While I went to the parking ticket machine, the intrepid group began to seek among the trees. By the time I got back they’d built up quite a following of locals, BAE employees and the like all peering into the trees with encouraging comments such as “Oh, the owl is back is it!” Nice work team. Even a couple of tourists thought it might be something to add to their agenda.
Much pointing and highlighting previous perches soon was the flavour of the moment. And I thought. Great. All I need now is some heavily armed security people to imagine the worst of a group of people outside a military installation armed with cameras, binoculars and a following of locals.
After several fruitless, but fun minutes, the locals assumed, quite correctly, that the “Owl was not back”, and moved on to other things.
There are more Plane Trees down the road, seemed to be the obvious next move. So while the said intrepid group moved down the road, I went over to talk to the lone Security Guard who had ‘miraculously’ appeared.
Attack being the best form of defence, my opening gambit was, “G,day, Security folk now lots of stuff about what’s going on in the area, we’re looking for the Powerful Owl, any ideas?”
To my surprise, not only did he know, but had a fair idea where it was, how long it had been there, what trees it had favoured in the past, how many possums it set on to in a week, and the lowering of the seagull population. Bingo!
He also volunteered that last evening the Powerful Owl had made several passes at the Night Security Guard on his rounds. So after chatting about OH&S issues for security guards and attacks from Powerful Owls he suggested the , “big tree down by the head office, near the second floor windows.” EE and Onymous were already heading down that way, and so I thanked him for his insight and a lady going by said, “Oh, you’d be looking for the owl, its down here most days!” And waved me on to the building with the second floor window. “In the testimony of two witness”, so the texts say, that was good enough for me.
So I ambled down, EE was looking in the open trees near the building, and I’d lost sight of Mr An.
Not wanting to look up as I passed the building with the second floor windows, I glanced quickly up. Big brown blob on branch.
Stopping, and looking about to be sure it was ok, I took a longer look. Yep, unmistakable. The back of a Powerful Owl. A nod is a as good as a wink for EE, and so I ambled back up to the car to get my camera, and bring the car down for a quick get-away. By the time I’d parked Mr An was knee deep in garden and pointing upward.
The rest is pretty simple. Take pictures, be unhappy about the light, change the exposure, be unhappy about the branches and leaves on the Plane tree getting in the way, and take more pictures.
Ten minutes later and we’d found a good cafe on the other side of the road, to Schwabs Gallery, and enjoyed a fine Lamb Pide and/or Smoked Salmon on Rye. Top coffee and a promise to come back on another expedition and repeat the successful part of the intrepid day out in the wilds of Williamstown’s coffee set. Note to self. Must go again to Schwabs Gallery. Mr An Onymous missed seeing the Vanilla Slice, so might be found cycling down for a solo repeat performance.
Ah, there you are.
Hard of course to see well because of the height, the light, and the branches and leaves.
With a feather from its recent kill hiding its face, and its attempt at sleep, it was pretty hard to get to see the bird closeup
The beautiful markings however showed up well. Note to technically ept. 70-200 VR 2.8 with a TC20E iii. e.g. 400mm
No, I don’t want to be famous on Flickr.