I recently saw another Powerful Owl, this time in Centennial Park, and the contrast with the one I saw last year was interesting. While the first owl was in peaceful woodland and quite relaxed, this one was in a park with a lot going on, and was perceptibly more alert and watchful. First, it kept looking towards the café where people were having coffee:
Then behind it, three people began throwing a ball for three dogs to chase and yap over.
It watched the ball and pursuing pack as they passed underneath.
As they moved off, it relaxed a little.
Then came my favourite moment. Its chin began to itch, and it raised one powerful claw to scratch it.
The goofy intent look reminded me of a chin-scratching cat:
After a while I edged round to try a different angle through the branches. The owl noticed and gave me a suspicious glare:
I kept still for a little, and then edged around to the other side. By then the owl seem to have accepted that I was harmless.
And that’s where I left it.
Park staff told me that last year a breeding pair had successfully raised an owlet in the Park. Then tragically both male and juvenile were killed by cars in separate incidents, when they landed on a roadway to catch or retrieve prey. Since then, a new young male had arrived on the scene, and everyone was hoping that he and the surviving female would form another breeding pair. However the male was young and not entirely at ease in the Park with its high levels of human, dog and vehicle traffic, so this year may be too soon (the egg-laying season is almost over.) If they do lay eggs, the area will probably be roped off as edgy male owls will swoop anything they perceive as a threat near the nest, and a powerful owl is not a bird to be swooped by!
One other thing to note with this bird is that it had a visible neck in some shots, which I didn’t see in that earlier owl. Australian owls fall broadly into two groups – the Tytonid owls which have a distinct “face”, like barn owls, and the Strigidae or hawk owls. Powerful owls are members of the hawk owl group (so are boobook owls), and this particular owl really looked hawklike in this shot: