Thursday, November 17, 2011

No Bird, No Bird

I haven't been out birding for more than a week now. Most of the time I became busy with some other things else and when I finally had the time to go out, the weather sucked. Last time I went out birding was on November 3. I went to Sekinoe and it was strangely quiet. Normally, the lotus fields would be filled with flocks of Common Teals and Daurian Redstarts, but I didn't see any of the former and only a couple of the latter. There were just 1 Little Egret and a pair of Japanese Wagtails walking around skittishly in the field. I didn't have any motivation to go back again since then. Until yesterday, the weather was extremely fine and I finally made up my mind to explore new places in Oita. I planned to visit the Ueno Cemetery Park (上野西山公園) near the southern exit of Oita Station. This morning I woke up and saw that the clouds were back again, covering most part of the sky, blocking nice sunlight which is crucial for photography. I was a little bit upset but decided to go anyway because I won't have much free time next week as well. As I arrived at the park, it was very dark and quiet. Not a single bird, except the crows, came into sight. I thought I'd have to go back without getting anything, but then I heard a noisy flock of Brown-eared Bulbuls screaming insanely in the bamboo forest nearby. I assumed that they might be mobbing some sort of raptor, so I followed the voice into the bamboo. Then a large bird silently soared out from a dense bamboo shrub and softly perched on a bare branch about 15m away from me without a sound. It turned around and faced me and the camera. I was excited to see that it's a Ural Owl (Strix uralensis fuscescens).

Ural Owl (Strix uralensis fuscescens)
Oriental Bush-Warbler (Cettia diphone cantans)
The owl stayed on the same perch for about 1-2 minutes before flying off over my head disappearing into the bamboo leaves. The flock of noisy bulbuls continued to follow the owl relentlessly. I was left standing among the bamboo shoots checking the photos and smiling by myself. My earlier encounter of the owl was just noticing a big object silhouetting swiftly through the night sky at Beppu Park. Even though it seems to be quite common and I've seen photos taken by Furuso-san at Rakutenchi entrance before, the bird proves to be really difficult to find. It seems to be easier in Hokkaido though, assuming from the many great shots taken by Stu. Here in Kyushu where leaves are dense year round, the common owl can become quite rare. The subspecies found in Kyushu is also different from the one in Hokkaido. In Kyushu (as well as southern Honshu) we have the subspecies S.u.fuscescens that seems to be a little more brownish than the subspecies S.u.japonica of Hokkaido. After the owl and bulbuls have already gone, I fired a few shots of the 2 Oriental Bush-Warblers (Cettia diphone cantans) that were hanging nearby, and I didn't press the shutter release button since then. The park seems to be a perfect setting for birding in spring. It must be a really good place for flycatchers, warblers and stuff but it's just not today. I returned home much earlier than I thought, but at least it wasn't a complete waste of time.


Phil said...

Nice shots of the owl in the low light circumstances. Like you say there's no substitute for a sunny day for bird photography.

Stu said...

Nice Owl shots, I saw my first Ural Owl in a cemetery actually..........and I've never seen one there since that one time.

There are several well known Owl 'holes' near me but last winter I only saw one single Owl.............maybe they moved deeper into the forest away from the road?

John said...

There's nothing as exciting as a big owl, great shots.

WELL worth getting out of the house for !

Charounette said...

oh my god, oh my god, I love this one, too cute, so furry such a bird, and those killer eyes, dark like night!

ps: how have you been ka nong Ton?

Russell said...

Wow! Lucky you. Such a great find. I'll have to watch those bulbuls more carefully from now. Nice catch of the warbler too. Not so easy in thick leaves.