The power and the glory.

Got a call from a friend the other night telling me he’d seen two Powerful Owls in a creek in the foothills to the north. I knew the creek, having seen one there myself a few years ago, so Peter and I went up this morning to try and see them ourselves.
The Powerful Owl is an awe inspiring bird, growing to about 660 mm, and preys on possums, gliders, and birds. A brushtail possum is a powerful animal, but the Powerful Owl is well up to the task of dealing with them with wicked talons and powerful beak.
We started up the creek at 10 am, checking out all areas of likely roosting habitat, The Rock Waxflower grows to a good size in there and is favoured by them for the good cover it provides. There was no sign of the owls, although we did find a patch of whitewash and two regurgitated pellets under a tree over the track. The day had turned very cold and gloomy, but we still saw a good variety of birds, Eastern Spinebills, Eastern Yellow Robins, Pink Robins, Golden Whistlers, Grey Shrike-thrushes and White-throated Treecreepers to name a few. After nearly two hours walking we were nearing the head of the creek, it had opened out into a wide glade where three gullies met, too open for the owls, so we turned to make our way back.
We still kept looking however, and then, about a third of the way back, we turned the binoculars on to a stand of tall tea tree on the other side of the creek, and there they were! The cameras were quickly out, but we were shooting at fairly long range into the light, the sun having made a reappearance. The shots were not good, so I climbed down, crossed the creek and tried to get closer. Those big yellow eyes were watching me, and as soon as I got a bit too close for comfort both birds took off and flew across and up the creek. We followed, and located them again only fifty metres upstream. This time the light was a little better, and after another scramble up rock slabs we got more shots before they again flew a short distance. Once more we closed in for pictures, but they had had just about enough of the game, and this time disappeared into the distance. Mission accomplished, what magnificent birds they are, but I tell you I wouldn’t care to be a possum living in that creek. Click on the picture for a larger version, and for another picture and one of the creek, click here

powerful owl

18 Responses to “The power and the glory.”

  1. Dave says:

    Duncan, that’s one impressive owl. I would love to see it in action. The possum is a fair size animal. I can imagine the battle they would have. It really has a set of talons on it. Thanks for the pictures.

  2. Duncan says:

    Impressive is the word Dave, the female should start sitting in the next week or so according to my info, we’ll be trying to spot the nest site so we can keep an eye on it.

  3. Link says:

    Fantastic. Well done.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Just awesome…someday I’m going to come visit you…

  5. Magnificent, Duncan. Possums are one of our major pests here in NZ; maybe we should try introducing powerful owls as a biological control… just as our ancestors introduced stoats, ferrets and weasels to try to control rabbits? Hmmm… maybe not… ;^D

    The diversity and abundance of wildlife in your territory impresses me immensely, Duncan, as does your appreciation of it. I’m so grateful you show us these things.

  6. Duncan says:

    That’s a thought Pete, Powerful Owls are on the threatened list over here, I reckon they’d have a ball feasting on your possums, maybe clean up the odd stoat and weasel too. You’d have to grow some big old hollow bearing Mountain Grey Gums too for nest sites, starting to get a bit complicated isn’t it.
    Seriously, Pete, Link, Jimmy, it’s a pleasure to be able to share the things I see with all you good people in the land of blog.

  7. Pamela says:

    Beautiful owl–and great that you got such a good view of the talons in–powerful indeed!

  8. Duncan says:

    Yes, Pamela, those talons certainly are formidable weapons.

  9. Lara says:

    I live in Upper Ferntree Gully. Whlist feeding a possum an apple its baby climbed off its back and sit on the verander fence beside its mother. I crouched down to watch it eat the apple a second later an owl swooped off my roof from behind my head and took the baby possum without a sound. I feel so privileged to have wittnessed the Powerful Owl in action.

  10. Duncan says:

    What an experience Lara, perhaps a once in a lifetime event.

  11. bev says:

    Beautiful photos of the owl, Duncan. What eyes! Also a wonderful shot of the creek.

  12. Duncan says:

    The eyes have it, Bev, they drill right through you. The shot of the creek was tickled with the “Orton” technique, which can be quite effective with a suitable image.

  13. Great photos of a truly impressive bird. Gotta love those talons!

  14. Duncan says:

    Patrick, I would think not a view shared by the possums, gliders, and birds that experience their embrace!

  15. Came here from IATB. Thanks for this blog – I always find it fascinating and love how you describe your natural world. Spectacular owl (quite a sizeable bird) and a most interesting account of your finding it. I’d love to spend time at that creek. Like what you did with the Orton technique.

  16. Duncan says:

    Glad you enjoyed it Pam, that particular creek is a special one, I’ll do a bit more on it in the spring when there is better light for photos. Cindy put me on to the Orton technique, doesn’t work on all pictures, but given the right subject it can be very nice.

  17. Gwyn says:

    What a wonderful experience, Duncan. In appearance, it reminds me of the Northern Hawk Owls along the US/Canada border, though they are much smaller.

    What a great shot.

  18. Duncan says:

    Nice to hear from you Gwyn, hope things are going OK for you.