In search of Great Horned Owl

A few months ago, Mr. Sukumar, who taught me bird watching from a few years, invited me to see a pair of Great Horned Owl near his house in Sulur.  

It was a sunny evening and the sun rays were hitting me hard. We walked in the scrub filled with grasses and thorns. Large Grey Babblers were creating ruckus, talking amongst themselves loudly and muffling the sound of other sweet birds. I saw some sparrows perched on Acacia trees and scampering around. Some warblers were perched on low grasses. They moved about quietly, and I had to watch them closely. After so many years, I still can’t identify warblers! There are so many of them and I know how challenging it is to identify them because they all look similar! Warblers can best be identified by sound than anything else.

As we kept walking, we saw some Rosy Starlings (migratory birds) siting on a wire, showing its pink feathers in the drowning rays of sunlight. It was a beautiful sight. A few Brahmini starlings were also sitting and chatting with each other.

I was in a different world, I could see no humans and that makes me absolutely happy.

When we slowly reached near the ravine where the Great Horned Owl had its home, I just stared into the space in front of me and pop, I saw one huge bird flying across me and going off to a neem tree and hiding behind it. It was the Great Horned Owl. It was a priceless moment. No words sprouted out of my mouth to tell Mr Sukumar that I saw the bird. I just stammered and said, there, pointing my fingers to the small bush. The bird was sitting on a rock, silently and beautifully camouflaged. Then it moved behind the rock, sitting behind the tree. I could only see its beautiful ears. 

 

Great Horned Owls have ears and they are about two feet in size, and prey on rodents, lizards etc. 

The bird did not move from there. I just parked myself next to the ravine, waiting for the bird to come out. The female was missing and no where in sight. With my binoculars, I could only see the cute ears of the bird. Soon, a crow passed by the neem bush and was mobbing the owl. I wondered why the crow was mobbing the owl. Maybe it did not like its appearance, or did it get fun out of the mobbing? I should maybe sometime find out why mobbing happens.

Poor owl was being mobbed and even then it refused to come out. Soon, a man came and threw a huge stone into the ravine. I was even more angered at that. Why do people want to just destroy the harmony of these beings. As it is these creatures have lesser space to survive. Here was a place, where there was water, food and shelter for the bird and we only want to destroy it.

I sat there, watching a squirrel walking into the ravine gingerly. Soon, a white throated kingfisher flew past me and straight dived into the ravine water, and then flying to a tree branch. There was so much activity happening around me, yet there was so much calmness. 

I was absorbed. After waiting for an hour, the owl did not come out. But, I was happy, it gave me a chance to look at it closely, very closely and that is a lifelasting joy for me.

As we walked back, the sun was turning orange and slipping away into the sky. We saw some paddy field pipits, bushlarks, common hoopoe and a bunch of yellow wattles lapwings. A flock of cattle egrets were flying in the backdrop of the sunset. It was a magical sight.

The winds were turning cold suddenly. At the end of the stretch, I pulled out loads of thorns from my floaters, and ended up hurting my hand. But all this fun was totally worth it. There is nothing that can give me joy of watching a bird or an insect or any creature in its natural habitat. It is something I yearn for every single moment. It makes me grounded, it makes me happy. 

 

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