Sunday, September 14, 2014
What a sighting!
The Nanmangalam Reserve Forest starts at the fork of the Tambaram-Velachery and the Medavakkam Main Roads and spreads over about 800 acres, with Greater Chennai surrounding it on all sides. It is the home of the Great Indian Horned Owl (Bubo bengalensis), also known as the Indian Eagle-Owl. Most of the forest is scrub jungle, but it also contains a few abandoned granite quarries within it. The quarry pits, with their rock faces, have enough crevices for birds to nest and several species do.
We missed the owl by a whisker at the first quarry we went to this morning. It heard us coming and away it flew, getting beyond eye-range even before our eyes could reach where it had been. We trudged around to the next quarry - a larger, deeper piece of work - but because it was slightly less accessible than the first one, we felt the owl would have a hideout there as well and we hoped it would get there sooner than later.
We took our places at the edge of the quarry pit, looking down to the water that had collected in the pit, forming a nice little water body. And we looked across at the sheer rock face on the other side, trying to figure out where its nest could be. Then we heard the hoots. They seemed to be coming from the left and behind us: but with the quarry pit creating some echoes, we couldn't be sure. And then, I turned left and saw the big bird, gliding towards us. Dumbstruck as I made eye contact, I was sure it would either attack us, or swoop away, for there was no way it couldn't have seen us. But, it hadn't. Banking gently, it landed on the rock just below where I was sitting! For a few seconds, none of us moved. And then, I gently sent my arm out, camera at the end to take a picture. Managed to get a couple, before the bird looked around. This time, recognition followed eye-contact. Away it went, to the other side of the quarry, where it sat for quite a while, hidden by some foliage. You can see a picture taken by my friend, but the photo here is probably the only one I will get of a bird from above and behind it!