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25 Jun 2022, Edition - 2538, Saturday

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Columns

Spectre as the owl’s on prowl

Uma Ram

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Friday morning around 11 am when I was performing pooja at the snake hill inside our compound I saw this huge predator swooping down on our newborn giriraja chicks. Petrified I was, but my trepidation to save the pets made me rush towards it yelling!. Panicked the bird just gave a horrendous stare at me with its large bloodshot eyes.

The eye to eye contact with the predator just 4-5 feet away was both exciting and almost paralysing. Though the bird flapped away its tremendously huge long, stiff, asymmetrically shaped and symmetrically paired wings with a noise similar to applause, its vibrations hit my face, leaving me stupefied.

The breath of contentment of having saved the little ones eased me though the muddlement of the predator’s fiery eyes occupied my mind the whole day. During lunch when I described the bird I saw in our premises, my husband guessed it to be just yet other common raptor, as he did not expect the huge predator inside our compound.

When I googled for birds of Dharmapuri, I identified this predator as the spot bellied eagle owl. But until such a bird was fetched by the forest staff, found wounded and lying on the ground after hitting a barbed wire, inside the forest complex he never believed my words, as we had just then moved in a couple of months ago.

Even the picture, a bit blurred though, I had shot on my mobile camera in a hurry of its beautiful landing did not convince my husband as it was a rare sighting inside human habitations. But when I clicked a picture at more close quarters when it was brought home wounded , I could feel not just the majestic beauty of this gigantic raptor but also the softness of its his plumage.

If not for the newborn chicks, it would have never nested in our premises. The forest office campus of Harur division, our previous station spread over 12 acres housing offices and residences, was almost a small pocket of forest amidst the hot town. It had its variety of bird species, including the spot bellied eagle owl.

But what left me baffled was that when I googled the physical traits of the bird, I found it to be one of the largest owls; 20-26 inches long, 56-58 inches wing span and 2.9-3.3 lbs (1.3-1.5 Kgs ). There was little wonder then that I was spooked with this close encounter.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

(The author of the column is Uma Ram, freelance writer from Coimbatore)

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