Sunday, 1 December 2019

A great sooty owl ?

Last night, about two in the morning, we were woken up by a strange noise.

J accused me of snoring in a strange manner, but then it came again, a long descending noise, louder this time.

Noticeably, the possums who live in the hundred and fifty year old elm trees that line our street had all shut up and had stopped playing soccer on our roof.

It sounded once more, and then after a long pause,  we could hear the possums starting to creep about.

The cat, of course, had been woken up and wanted to go out, however if there was a predator about, one capable of scaring possums, it would probably be capable of doing some damage to an elderly and rather visible white cat, so we kept him in, much to his annoyance.

At first we thought it might be a powerful owl, which has been recorded in this area, and certainly there's enough prey in the forest and scrub on the old gold workings to sustain them - that and being happy to live in urban areas - one has even been sighted living in the middle of Canberra.

But the call didn't sound right - not hooty enough. A bit more searching on bird call websites and we came up with another possible candidate - the greater sooty owl.

Now, the greater sooty owl is not normally known in this area, tending to live in the temperate rainforests on the wetter east side of the Great Dividing range, rather than here in Beechworth on the western slopes where it's bit drier, and the native forest is drier and scrubbier with fewer old growth trees.

They're not known to wander far from their established territories. But of course, this year the forests in East Gippsland have been unusually dry, with bushfires closing the great Alpine road.

So possibly, just possibly, a sooty owl or two has crossed the divide in attempting to escape the fires and is trying to establish itself around Beechworth.

Certainly New South Wales Environment reports them as being present in the Alpine National Park, end Environment Victoria has published a paper that suggests they're not unknown in this area.

We'll see if we hear them again ...

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