For me a birding trip to Little Rann of Kutch was not going to be complete without coming across the Short-Eared Owls. Somehow I always wanted to see these birds in the Rann.
When I participated Darter Photography for WildWest tour at LRK, we spent few hours spread over two days looking for these birds. We choose a thorny shrub area mainly consisting of Juliflora for our search, where these birds are known to sit and sulk under the canopy of small trees on the ground. Thanks to amazing spotting by one of the drivers, we managed to see a Short-Eared Owl within few minutes of our search.
Short-Eared Owl sitting on a branch well inside the canopy of Juliflora tree. What an amazing spotting this was!
A pair yellow eyes stared at us from inside! This was a prickly feeling and we all had goosebumps for sure! I was awestruck by the spotting skills of the driver, as the bird was well inside the canopy and one could see only the eyes of the bird from outside. The birds are usually known to sulk on the ground, and the sight of the bird on a branch was rather an unexpected one. We slowly moved around, had to switch to manual focus on the camera to be able to manage few pictures.
In next few minutes we spotted couple of more Owls, witnessed an event where an Owl chased a Harrier in the sky. Since it was noon time and may be also resting period for the birds, we decided to leave the area. Happy to have found an Owl area and promising ourselves one more visit at a more appropriate time.
Our next visit was hardly an hour before the sunset next day. The luck was not in our favor this time. Even after closely searching almost all the shrubs in the area we had not managed finding one. Now the Sun had gone below the horizon, we stopped our vehicle and it was time to come out of Rann.
Suddenly we got a signal from the vehicle behind and we instantly hoped that it was the bird we were searching for.
The Owl was sitting on the ground hiding among the shrubs, the shrub acted as a neat camouflage. Our vehicle had passed through this shrub and sure we missed spotting this one! Even the bird is known to be diurnal, the hunting occurs mainly in the night and probably they sit on the ground like this the whole day. Again the bird stared at us keenly!
After some time the bird took off and sat right in middle on the “Rann” at a short distance from us. ( I mean in “open” with its full body visible.) The photographer-birders like us always love this sight of the bird in open as a nice opportunity to take pictures! But this also meant that it would be a hard task approaching the bird. We definitely needed to crawl to cover the distance, as we would be seen as a threat if we get up from the ground. We needed to stop when bird looked at us and proceed when the bird looked the other way. It took us couple of tries to get to the reasonable proximity of the bird and we managed to make few pictures of the bird.
We wished the Owl happy Hunting as the bird took off after some. It was time to bid adieu to LRK and we returned with loads of memories from the trip.