In this bird-blessed bush capital many Canberrans pay close attention to droppings on the footpath, as Terry Munro did when walking from Civic to the Turner Bowling Club last Thursday. That's how his experienced eyes came to land on Australia's largest owl, the powerful owl, way up an oak tree in Haig Park.
Munro's good friend and fellow member of Canberra Ornithologists Group Terry Bell left bowls, went home for his binoculars and returned to confirm the sighting.
Since then more than 100 birdwatchers, including from Maine, USA, and Mike Jerram from Katherine, Northern Territory, have marvelled at this rare visitor to the ACT.
A nocturnal feeder resting in a hidden location during daylight hours, this raptor has preyed on ringtail possums and sugar gliders.
Ecologist and author Jerry Olsen tells a fascinating story of a powerful owl at the Australian Botanic Gardens some years ago being run out of town by a huge flock of assorted birds.
Bell says it is a vulnerable bird standing 65-centimetres high. "They've examined the stomach contents [of other powerful owls], they do eat other birds like rosellas and fruit bats, but mostly it's ringtail possums and sugar gliders. The other possum, which is a bushier-tailed possum which is more common in Canberra, that might be a little bit big for them."
A contributor to COG's chat line says: "There are more than 50 mature trees at this location and many more across busy McCaughy Street so really it was a very lucky sighting by Terry Munro. As others have suggested this could be the very same bird that has visited the nearby much quieter ANBG in recent years. About 15 COG members responded to the posting yesterday evening and were rewarded for their diligence, proving once again the usefulness of our chat line."