Powerful attraction drawing birdwatchers and photographers to capture the moment

Powerful attraction drawing birdwatchers and photographers to capture the moment

The confident predictions of some weeks ago that the Powerful Owl haunting Haig Park in Turner was destined to become the most photographed owl in Canberra history have come true.

At the time of writing it is still in and around the bailiwick it has been posing in and hunting in for weeks (not a million miles from the RUC bowling club at Turner). Those who go looking for it are often able to find it (always high up in a tree) by first seeing the knot of twitchers and photographers ogling it. More people have been to see it than are likely, by the sound of it, to attend the very different entertainment of Canberra's forthcoming Asian Cup football matches. It is endearingly Canberraesque that we are so bird-conscious a city that so many folk are so engaged by a fowl of the air, albeit a spectacularly big one that it's easy to go "Gosh!" at.

Selfish Powerful Owl, refusing to share.

Selfish Powerful Owl, refusing to share.Credit:Geoffrey Dabb

Should we be worried about drawing attention to the owl's whereabouts? How is it coping with all this attention? Certainly, we're told, it does look up when a car door slams or when there is noisy weekend revelry at the club (where lubricious-sounding "barefoot bowls" is played). Certainly it would be irresponsible to give away the whereabouts of nesting owls, but this famous owl is solitary.

Some who have been to see it have found it clutching and dining on the remains of ringtail possums and Geoffrey Dabb (see our picture) was there when a child asked what it was the owl had in its clutches and when the owl, with its fierce eyes and its body language, made it plain it was not going to share.


The Turner RUC belongs to the ACT Rugby Union Club and one member of our team of Turner owl correspondents muses that "it's appropriate that the owl is blessing a rugby club with its presence because just down the road from the Club, on the other side of Haig Park, is a a rugby ground: the home of Uni-Norths Owls".

The same correspondent advises that "My mother inherited a china owl. For years it has sat on her window sill, looking into the living room and dispensing its sage advice to, now, four generations of the family. On the cracked, worn base

This wise old owl lived in an Oak.
The more he saw the less he spoke.
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Let's emulate this wise old Bird."

Can it be, we wonder, that the Turner owl is serving as a similar wise old role model? It too, the Turner owl, is spending almost all of its time in a huge and spreading oak tree.

And while we're engaged in fowl play we notice a conversation going on among members of the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) about birds they have been swooped by. Most Canberrans living shy suburban lives will have been swooped by magpies and may be surprised to learn that any other species do it, but of course committed birdos may trespass where other Canberrans seldom do and may literally trespass in birds' defended territories.

One COG member testifies that she has been swooped by eight different species. They include the Magpie-lark, Red Wattlebird and Noisy Friarbird "and of course that three are species I'm studying for my PhD and so I visit their nests and probably deserve to be swooped".

With the weather becoming bleak and scorching those of us who encourage birds to come to our gardens must remember to give them clean water to drink and to bathe in. Change it often because on dry, dusty and windy days it will become mucky. It is well worth the little effort involved because (we're told it has something to do with "mirror neurons") the spectacle of a wild bird having a wild, abandoned splishy-splashy bath gives a great joy that the Abbott government will never be able to ban or to tax.

And, still with natural history, we must, blushing, give this CORRECTION

Nothing goes quietly through to the keeper in cerebral, expert-infested Canberra and a taxonomic botanist assures us that the Kosciuszko alpine flower portrayed in Wednesday's column as a Celmisia is something else. He says it is Ranunculusanemoneus.

Consultation of my copy of Kosciuszko Alpine Flora

To console me he points out that what he calls my "little f--- up" pales beside the "giant f--- up" (do all taxonomists talk like this?) committed by the Royal Australian Mint in issuing in 2011-12 a Flanders Poppy coin on which the flower wasn't even a poppy (let alone a Flanders one) but an Anemone, and hence from a different genus altogether.

Yes, Googling to pictures of the coins in question he seems to be right. We have tried (so far in vain) to find out if the Mint has ever owned up to this administrative h****p.

There is also the possibility (the vigilance of you Canberrans!) that the handsome, old, sculpture-looking, mouldering car body portrayed in Wednesday's column as a 1934 Ford ute (in information supplied to us) is in fact a creature of 1937. Knowledgable-sounding, owl-wise readers have queued to correct us.

Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times

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