Melissa Ong was ecstatic when she learnt that her mom had a close encounter with an owl. It was 8.30am on Sunday 30th November 2008 when her mom called her and whispered, “There’s an owl in my bouganvillea!” Her mom was then watering her plants and felt there was something small and dark staring at her. The owl was a rare Oriental Scops Owl (Otus sunia), roosting in the bougainvillea plant.
What is unusual is that her garden is the corridor fronting her third level Housing Development Board’s apartment at Sembawang. To have a bird roosting among the potted plants there is exciting enough. For the bird to be an owl, a bird seldom seen by most urban dwellers in the wild or even heard it’s hoots in the dead of the night, is beyond imagination.
So what do you think Melissa did? She ran over with her camera to see the owl perching on the bougainvillea branches that are hanging over the railing.
“The neighbours walked by, photographs were taken and the owl did not seem to mind it. It’s head just followed my mom wherever she walked. It did not groom or reposition itself or do anything else. The owl remained on the plant the whole of Sunday, even spending the night there until about 1-2am on Monday when it flew off, probably to forage.”
Melissa called bird specialist R Subaraj, who asked for the eye colour (yellow and black) and replied that it was probably an Oriental Scops Owl. The identification was confirmed when images were sent to Subaraj.
The Oriental Scops Owl is a rare winter visitor and passage migrant, so it was probably lost. Its presence has not been recorded too often and this is the 14th record for Singapore.
Image by Daniel Tay.