Ian Dugdale sent me a picture of a Bay Owl he photographed at Ton Sai Waterfall on the 3rd while on a night trek through the forest with “Games” Punjapa Petsri, Nick Sampson and Paul Carter. The owl was photographed on the old jeep track which was once used by eco tour groups to take tourists from Ton Sai Waterfall on the west side of Khao Prataow Wildlife Sanctuary, to Bang Pae Waterfall, located on the east side. Ian described the owl as being very approachable and easy to photograph.
Bay Owls have been reported from the area for a number of years now, beginning back in early 2001 when Stjin De Win of Birding2Asia posted a stakeout for this species on the internet. At the time the bird was a regular visitor to a rubber plantation on the east side of the park. I never managed to find it there but have encountered the bird a number of times in other locations in Phuket; however, I never really got a satisfactory look at it. The last time I saw it was a few years back when I accidentally hit one as it was flying across the road near the Hino showroom on the Bypass road. Thankfully, the bird was unharmed, and when I realized what I’d almost killed, I went back to see if it needed medical attention and arrived in time to see the bird take off from the main road and disappear into the rubber plantation nearby.
After Ian sent me the directions to finding the bird, I scheduled some time to get out to the park in the hopes of bagging this twitch once and for all. Accompanying me was my wife Rosie, who also enjoys seeing a new bird from time to time.
After negotiating permission to enter the reserve, we were able to get in and start our way up the trail at around 10 P.M. The trail was damp and quite slippery so it took some time to make it to the location Ian described in his email. A few minutes of quiet listening revealed the area is quite good for owls, with two Bay Owls, three Collared Scops Owls and a single Brown Boobok heard within the first 300-meter section of the trail.
The Bay Owls were present but neither was willing to come out from the dense foliage. They seemed to be hiding in a tree just beyond a dirt embankment on the right side of the trail. After an hour of repeated attempts to lure the bird out (they were quite close but refused to come out in the open) the skies released a torrent of rain which forced us to retire for the night.
No luck this round, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up. We’ll be back again, and next time I hope I’ve got this fella’s number!
Special thanks to Ian Dugdale for sending us the photo and for his help with directions to the site.