Recently I was walking past the Shore school basketball courts when my attention was caught by a particularly shrill chorus of noisy miner abuse occurring in a small tree. I investigated, and as I moved around the tree, a small owl gradually became visible behind the noisy miners. It was a Southern Boobook owl (Ninox boobook).
The owl was stolidly ignoring the noisy miners’ excited carry-on, until I approached the tree more closely. It then stopped ignoring the miners for long enough to give me the typical owl greeting of a sustained suspicious glare, before returning to ignoring the noisy miners.
By then I was close enough, so I kept still for a while, and soon the owl began to relax in spite of the ongoing noisy miner chorus.
It even closed its eyes for a little while.
It did rouse as I moved round to get a different angle, but still didn’t seem to be unduly perturbed by my presence, and I got a number of photos.
I was there long enough to be quizzed by a couple of passers-by about what I was photographing. I also talked briefly to the owner of the house next door. Apparently the owl had been on her front deck earlier that morning, before shifting to the tree.
It soon became clear that there wouldn't be any further movement by the owl before nightfall, unless I disturbed it, which of course I didn't want to do. So I left it and its attendant miners to go home and check on a few boobook facts. It turns out that there are several subspecies, which between them are found all over Australia. It’s one of the smallest owls – perhaps 250-300mm tall – and feeds on small vertebrates and larger insects using what’s described as the perch-and-pounce method. The name comes from its call, sometimes described as "boobook"; there's a recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nST8Sdsxbg
Whatever the owl's diet, it certainly seemed to attract the ire of noisy miners - though very little is required to attract that.
North Sydney – my home suburb – holds Sydney’s second largest CBD. However its parks and bushland areas, and those of neighbouring councils such as Willoughby, host a surprising variety of native flora and fauna. These bush areas are maintained by dedicated council staff, often working with local resident volunteers.