Mottled wood owl spotted and documented on Thiruporur to Chengalpet Road

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Though a resident species, the mottled wood owl is rarely sighted due to its preference for forest tracts

When the first light hits the land, these nature-loving residents from the Nanmangalam-Sembakkam area bird outside the Nanmangalam forest, watching its peripheries with a gimlet eye. Their persistence has rewarded them on many occasions, placing them at just the right spot to clap eyes on a rarity.

On November 17, 2021, three from that informal group — Jithesh Babu, Leo Vino and Kumaresan Chandrabose — saw the rarest of rare patches of yellow, on the rump of a flycatcher. It was the jaw-dropping experience of watching the yellow-rumped flycatcher (more popularly known as the ‘Korean flycatcher’). As the sighting happened after back-to-back weather systems, the bird had likely been swept off course, and flew willy-nilly to Nanmangalam to give these birders something to trill about. These birders have drawn up a checklist of birds from the region: one of its highlights being how a chestnut-winged cuckoo (the species is a passage migrant in these parts) punch the clock unfailingly on this section during winter before moving on for a longer sojourn elsewhere.

Something to hoot about

While they are inspiring ambassadors for patch-birding, a few of them also venture far from their diggings, Jithesh Babu being one of them. Last week, Jithesh informed this writer that a member of this group had had a rare bird sighting on the Thiruporur to Chengalpet Road, on January 30, 2022. It was a resident species, hardly in danger, but still comes across as a will o’ the wisp, due to its preference for wooded habitats, largely forests. It was a blind date for Jagadhish Raghuraman, a Nanmangalam resident, with the mottled wood owl. In quite an interesting coincidence, Jagadhish who birds outside the peripheries of the forest near his hearth, found this rarity from outside the periphery of another forest.

Jagadhish — who identifies himself as “a professional photographer and one who engages in birding and bird photography as a passion” — had headed to Kottamedu, a village on the road from Thiruporur to Chengalpet, having been invited by a friend, Ajay AD, who lives in Hanumathapuram, not too far from Kottamedu.

Says JagadHish, “Ajay told me that the scops owl is frequently sighted at Kottamedu, and that was the reason I had made that trip to that place that day. Besides, my cousin also lives in Kottamedu.”

Jagadhish and Ajay ended up having something way bigger to hoot about.

Jagadhish notes: “We saw a mottled wood owl around Kottamedu junction. Around 7.30 p.m. on the roadside, we found this owl. We first recognised it by the call, which is a form of cachinnation. And after around two hours of waiting — there is forest tracts on both sides and we just waited on the road — the mottled wood owl showed up for us.”

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