On 18th March 2012, we were on a boat riding into the salty waters of Sundarbans. The breeze was just warming us up for the long day ahead, when Mridul Kanti Kar, a young fellow birder with an amazing ability to spot birds, shouted out ‘Owl! Owl!’. We were near the famous Sajnekhali Watch Tower. We were clicking pictures furiously, not realizing the rarity we were looking at. Though initially mistaken for the common Brown Fish Owl, something about it denied that fact. Only after blowing up the photos up on my screen later did I notice the white forehead and absence of horizontal cross-bars on its underparts, and realized it resembled the Buffy Fish Owl. And it did turn out to be a rarity, and the photo of this Buffy, is the second photo-record from Sundarbans, rather India, the first one being by Mr. Nikhil Bhopale in Jan 2010.
The Buffy Fish Owl enjoys an extremely large area of distribution in South-east Asian countries ie Brunei, Cambodia, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is quite a rarity in India though with just a few records from the Sundarbans mangroves.
Read in detail about the Buffy Fish Owl in the AVIS – IBIS database.
Image and note contributed by Abhishek Das, a final year engineering student, and a bird-watcher and amateur wildlife photographer based in Howrah, West Bengal.
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
With the number of serious birders and photographers going up in India, newer records like this owl are being added regularly. Birders and photographers now act as citizen scientists constantly adding to the scientific knowledge of birds, their behavior and their distributional range.