The 2BOs of Kelly's Swamp:Burnt Out and Barn Owl

Having a couple of hours to spare while El Camion Real was being worked on in Fyshwick I wandered along Newcastle Street and into Jerrabomberra Wetlands.  This was the charming scene which greeted me.
At least the checkered tape implies AFP have turned up, probably muttering  "Allo, allo, whats all this 'ere ven?"  and recorded the event.  Presumably the owners of the vehicles didn't dump them there and torch them.  As I meandered around the wetlands I contemplated the number of cars dumped there and ignited (quite high, but not high enough to justify an hourly Police Presence) and wondered what could be done to scrag the  miscreants.

I'd have thought a webcam, linked to a movement sensor mounted somewhere nearby could be useful.  While I presume the hooning happens after dark I would think the flames following ignition would give enough illumination to get some decent images?  Perhaps the movement detector could send an alarm to the nearest AFP outlet and they might be able to get to the start of Dairy rd and see who is around the area and what they are doing.

I was of course primarily there to look for birds, rather than do an emulation of Fancy Smith (even being as unfit as I am, I'm still slim compared to Brian Blessed)!
Waterbirds were pretty sparse on the swamp, and while there were a good collection of Superb Fairy Wrens and Red-browed finches my list was still quite short after doing the rubber-board walk.  Things then picked up a bit with some New Holland Honeyeaters in the Grevilleas on the heath behind Tadorna Hide beginning to flower and the eucalypts forming the backdrop to the Heath beginning to flower and attracting a lot (at least 8) of Red Wattlebirds.

As I got on to the track leading from Kingston down to the silt trap a large, odd looking bird flew away and landed in a tree.  Of course it landed on the far side of the bole of the tree so I couldn't see it.  Almost immediately every Pied Currawong in South Canberra arrived and started harassing the bird.  This made me think immediately of Owl and, due to the colouring and size, Barn Owl.  After some touring - see below - I managed to capture this photograph.
Of course the bird kept its face away from me so I haven't got the shape of the facial disk clearly, but I believe the colour of the back rules out Masked Owl (too yellow for light phase and too pale for dark phase).  Also Barn Owls are reasonably regular in the area.

Following a comment from my friend Denis Wilson (see below) I have snipped a close up of the feet, which shows the arrangement rather well.
The bird was very 'nervous'.  Perhaps the Turner Powl, and 'my' Tawny Frogmouths have led me to regard nightbirds as very tolerant of human presence.  This one seemed to scarper as soon as I got near - possibly due to being agitated by the Currawongs.

If anyone else wants to try for it the following snip from Google Earth illustrates the route followed (I am not sure when the image was taken but the area seems a lot more vegetated now).
  1. Area from which first flushed.
  2. Perched in tree here and then vanished.
  3. Flushed again from here: it had been sheltering from the 'wongs low down in a pyracanthus shrub.
  4. Perched in another tallish tree here.  Currawongs mobbed it again but I got the photo here.
  5. Last seen flying into a tree here pursued by the vermin, but it had moved on by the tme I got there.


Denis Wilson said…
Hi Martin
Your Barn Owl is shunning you. Quite right, too.
It has given you a good shot of the toes. You can clearly see the two forward, one rear, and one side acting as second rear.
I am on the road at present, so cannot give you the real technical words for these toe arrangements.
It is quite rare to be able see the toe arrangement in a live bird.
Well done, even though the Owl was trying to pretend you were not pointing something at it intrusively.
Flabmeister said…
Thanks Denis. I had thought that the Owl was actually showing its beak to the Currawong just out of shot, and didn't realise it was actually dissing me.

Oh well I get the fish eye from a Barn Owl, Bronnie Bishop gets it from Clive Palmer: I reckon I am in front.

I'll see what I can do in the way of cropping a close up of the feet from my snaps.


Denis Wilson said…
Found a site with illustrations,
Zygodactyly is the magic word.

There's a whole other world out there, Martin, once we start engaging in dactylic debates
Cheers Denis

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