Night Hunt for Crested Owl at Las Brisas

The two days at Las Brisas were separated by a night pursuit of the local owls, the Mottled Owl (Ciccaba virgata) and the much less common and strikingly impressive Crested Owl (Lophostrix crestata). Just take a look at even the bird guide illustrations of this one and you’ll see what I mean.

Since the Mottled was already checked off on everybody’s list, the real target was the Crested. Four of us took up the chase, with an introductory tour from Ernesto Carmen to show us the amazing variety of local frogs. We climbed 18 metres up a steel ladder to a small metal platform in a yas tree (or was it a yos tree?), where the brave four (minus Ernesto) and waited for what seemed like an hour or more while the owls decided whether or not to respond to taped recordings of their voices. After a while, our flashlights revealed a large sloth suspended from the branch of a nearby tree even higher than ours, and then finally both owl species responded.

Mottled Owl Larry San Rafael

Mottled Owl by day near my home, San Rafael de Santa Cruz, courtesy of Larry Waddell. Note the dark iris!

I was already familiar with the typical call of the Mottled Owl but the strange growl of the Crested Owl was quite unexpected. The bird moved all around us in the canopy but we couldn’t pin it down. We persevered for a long while but finally had to descend from the platform. We returned through the darkness and it was only when we were almost back at the patio and reception area (there are no actual buildings at the Reserve) that we again heard the growl and found the owner sitting with apparent unconcern in a nearby tree at no great distance from us.

In the flashlights, the white crests and light-coloured bill form a striking open Y-shape, in itself almost like the outline of the wings of a hovering bird or large butterfly, but with the orange eyes below the wings. The Crested Owl is commonly found at Las Brisas and we were able to enjoy almost 20 minutes viewing this particular individual   Here is one of the best photographs, thanks to the perseverance of Andrés Ramírez:


This Crested Owl was almost as interested in us as we were in him (or her)

And the actual Count Day was still to come!

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