To be at the right time at the right place — if there is one prayer from birdwatchers on the planet, this should be it.
The prayer was answered for three city-based birders prowling the hills of the Arippa bird sanctuary off the city on the evening of September 5. They feel their “trophy case” of rare birds sighted by them has got another feather in its cap when a large Ceylon bay owl posed in the dimming light of the day.
While this sub-species of the oriental bay owl cannot be classified as rare, its sighting in Thiruvananthapuram district is arguably a first, arousing the interest of birdwatchers in the State.
It was a chance encounter, says Ganesh Mohan, who, along with Thomson Saburaj and P.B. Biju, went into the woods searching for the great eared nightjar.
“We spotted that a couple of weeks ago and even managed to get a picture of it. It has been described as shy and camouflages itself very well; so it is difficult to get a clear shot of the bird,” Mr. Ganesh says.
It was then that they managed to get a picture of another uncommon bird, the Sri Lankan frogmouth.
The three birders have been on trips to the Himalayas and the Rann of Kutch over the past three years, having met through a Facebook forum and then again on day-long trips organised by the WWF and groups such as Warblers and Waders.
P.O. Nameer, Associate Professor (Wildlife) at the College of Forestry of Kerala Agricultural University in Thrissur, told The Hindu that these birds were relatively common in the Western Ghats but sightings were infrequent.
“Rarity is a relative term, and we qualify creatures as rare in scientific parlance based on IUCN categorisation. None of the three birds have been listed by the IUCN. However, they are nocturnal and since bird-watching is mostly done during the day, there are fewer recordings of them,” he said.
The Ceylon bay owl, however, has caught his attention. On the eastern side of the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, there have been sightings, he said, speaking of the forests that are contiguous to the ranges in the Neyyar-Peppara region.
“If sought at the appropriate time at the right place and if you are familiar with their distinctive calls, your chances of finding them is greater,” he said adding that this was first he has heard of a bay owl sighting in Arippa.
Sandeep Das, who is currently scouting the Agasthyamala regions for frog species as part of this doctorate studies under the Kerala Forest and Research Institute, was fascinated by the rare sighting of the bay owl here. “The frogmouth and the nightjar are known to camouflage themselves very well and they are endemic to the Western Ghats. They are far fewer in numbers towards the south,” he told The Hindu over phone.
He too echoed Dr. Nameer’s description of them being nocturnal, making it that much more challenging to photograph them.
Source: The Hindu, 7 October 2013