During a spotlight survey last Friday night (14.11.14) we recorded an adult Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua), as well as several of the Owl’s favourite prey items – 3 x Greater Gliders and 2 x Common Ringtail Possums. The bird was perched about 5 m above the ground on a dead branch and only about 15 m from the track we were on. Our group had several pairs of binoculars and everyone got a good look at this amazing bird.
Powerful Owls are regarded as Vulnerable in Victoria and are listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. There are several other Powerful Owl records from the Strathbogie State Forest, as well as other fauna species listed as vulnerable to forest logging (Greater Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider, Koala). Despite numerous records of these species, it isn’t at all clear that VicForests have conducted any fauna surveys in the Strathbogie Ranges at all, let alone surveys for Powerful Owls – something they commit to in their Pre-harvest Fauna Survey Procedure (March 2014 V1.5).
Powerful Owls are an apex predator in this forest: they have large home ranges and need high quality forest with big, old trees for nesting. Hence, there are special management prescriptions relating to the protection of Powerful Owls (and other species) in State Forest and in logging areas and we would expect VicForests and DEPI to fully comply with all their obligations in implementing such prescriptions. We’ll look into this further.
Back to the night – unfortunately, the only camera among the group during the spotlight walk was a phone camera. In spite of the grainy image, the bird is recognizably a Powerful Owl – it won’t win any photographic competitions, but it will remind each of us how lucky we were that night!