Northern Boobook

Northern Boobok, Beijing, 4 June 2013.  Taken using my Canon EOS 7D on ISO 6400 and handheld!

Northern Boobok, Beijing, 4 June 2013. Taken using my Canon EOS 7D and 400mm lens on ISO 6400 and handheld!

After a tip-off, Paul Holt, Alice Carfrae and I spent yesterday evening looking for an owl…  not just any owl but a Northern Boobook (formerly known as Brown Hawk Owl but now ‘split’ into a species in its own right).  We arrived on site at 6pm and, after a short walk, we soon heard and saw, spectacularly well, this lovely owl: the first time I have ever seen this uncommon species.  Unfortunately it was an overcast evening, meaning the light was poor for photography, but it was also very still, enabling us to hear it well.

Although we only saw one bird, it was clear that there were two birds present, probably a pair, with the other bird (a female?) calling at a slightly different pitch.

We were then told about a nearby breeding pair of Oriental Scops Owl and, sure enough, after a 5-minute walk, we were watching and listening to one of these small owls in the company of a few uncomfortably large, low flying bats.  Although Oriental Scops Owl is a migrant in good numbers through Beijing, we didn’t know it bred….

There is so little we know about the birds in the capital, let alone the rest of China….!

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About Terry Townshend

I am a British birder living and birding in Beijing from August 2010 until 2015. Through this blog I hope I can convey a sense of what it is like to live in this thriving, confident and contrasting city and the birdlife that can be found in its environs. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Terry Townshend, Beijing September 2010
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8 Responses to Northern Boobook

  1. Gretchen says:

    Wow, not just owls, but Booboks! I once found an owl pellet in a smallish garden in the middle of Beijing – a small pellet so I assumed it was scops – sized. It was in the spring, but I forget exactly when. I was quite surprised to think of an owl there, though it could have been passing through.

    • Hi Gretchen. Oriental Scops Owl is a reasonably common migrant in Beijing from mid-April, so there is every chance the pellet you found was from this species. Northern Boobok is a scarce breeder, usually arriving in mid-May. Tawny Owl is also possible in Beijing and, of course, Long-eared Owls roost at the Temple of Heaven in winter and both Short-eared Owls and Eagle Owls are also seen occasionally. So Beijing is quite a good place for owls! Terry

  2. Ben Wielstra says:

    Hey Terry, Last May I saw a pair of Oriental Scops Owls mating in Beijing (Tsinhua campus). Seems they intended to stay!

  3. John Holmes says:

    Nice shot… the 7D isn’t so bad at high ISO settings, then !

  4. daviddvd says:

    Hi Terry,
    More on Oriental Scops Owls:
    Several Universities (THU, PKU, Renmin U.,Beijing Language and Culture University), Bot. Garden, all there are Oriental Scops Owls breeding.

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