Saturday, 28 May 2016

Himalayan Wood Owl

With Qi Gu offering me nothing other than pain all week, by the time I had finished my check of Area A on Friday morning I was ready for home and not in the mood for looking elsewhere in that area (the heat is now insane along the coast anyway). Home early and restless, it didn't take long for me to start thinking of what else I could possibly do with the day and a snap decision to head up to Ta Ta Jia for the evening saw me speeding north towards Chiayi straight after lunch. It was close to 16:00 when I pulled up at Shr Jhoa hopeful of Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans. Although usually hit and miss here, they are straightforward this year as they have chosen to nest in a telegraph pole right above the road. A few Brown Bullfinches Pyrrhula nipalensis were also hanging around this area, giving me two year ticks in as many minutes after stopping my bike.

I took the decision then to continue onwards and upwards as I thought it might be possible to get to the top with some daylight to spare and to perhaps pick up one or two of the birds I wanted that evening before I began looking for my main target, Himalayan Wood Owl Strix nivicolum. It was raining at the top when I arrived, but it stopped with about an hour or so of light left, meaning that I would actually come across a surprising amount of birds all told, including Golden Parrotbill Suthora verreauxi, Taiwan Fulvetta Fulvetta formosana, White-browed Bush Robin Tarsiger indicus and (quite unusual for me) Mikado Pheasant Syrmaticus mikado

A Himalayan Wood Owl began calling fairly close to Ta Ta Jia some time before dark, giving me the opportunity to try and locate it whilst there was still some ambient light left in the day. Luckily, it was hunting a landslide area close to the road and I was able to approach it with my flashlight and camera. I could have done with an extra pair of hands to hold all the stuff required for night photography, but got some reasonable images of this bird anyway, meaning that it does not have to languish around on my 'heard only' list this time round (a list I'm never very keen on).

With a high hit rate from the afternoon and the main target already in the bag right on dusk, I took the decision not to stay at Alishan for the evening and to begin the long drive back home. It was upon starting my descent (still above Alishan) that I came across my second large owl of the evening, flushed from a very low position at the roadside (perhaps from the ground). This owl appeared much larger than the Himalayan Wood Owl I had just been watching and looked strikingly and quite uniformly pale (almost white) on its breast and through its underwing (looking 'hooded' from its throat upwards), and my immediate reaction was that it really had to be a Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogrammica. However, despite looking for it for another hour, I could not relocate it, and left wondering whether or not the apparent 'paleness' of this bird had just been the effect of headlights (which are really not all that strong on a scooter). As the heat starts to become unbearable in the lowlands, it looks as though night time in the cool of the mountains is set to become the preferred way of spending this particular summer, especially if owls are proving easy to come across! Above photos taken at Shr Jhoa, Chiayi County and Ta Ta Jia, Nantou County 27/5/16.

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