Question: What is big, scary, comes out after dark and lives on Mount Canobolas?
Answer: The Powerful Owl.
In a rare sighting, the Powerful Owl, Australia’s largest owl species, was seen and photographed for the first time on Mt Canobolas during a recent wildlife survey.
With a 1.4 metre wingspan, height up to 67 cm and weight up to 1.45 kg, the Powerful Owl is a large and impressive bird.
Powerful Owls are fierce predators that prey mainly on large nocturnal tree-dwelling mammals, especially Ringtail Possums and Greater Gliders, but also smaller Sugar Gliders and even roosting birds.
Both Ringtail Possums and Greater Gliders were also observed during the survey indicating Mt Canobolas provides the habitat and resources needed to support this apex predator, which is also listed as a threatened species.
The wildlife survey was organised by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of a program to monitor the recovery of the State Conservation Area (SCA) after the February 2018 wildfire.
The main survey in late March 2019 was carried out over four days by four teams, each comprising a professional team leader and helpers drawn from 15 volunteers, many from the Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society.
Leader of the March survey, Dr Anne Kerle, who photographed the Powerful Owl (pictured), recently released the survey report, which focused on the birds, mammals including microbats, and reptiles of the SCA.
The survey showed a diverse and resilient fauna thrives in the reserve after the wildfire, despite over 70 percent of its area being burnt, some severely.
Twenty one native mammal species were recorded, including 12 kinds of microbats. Three of the mammals are listed as threatened, the Greater Glider and two of the microbats.
The cutest mammal recorded, the Agile Antechinus, a marsupial mouse, is at the northern and western limits of its known distribution in the SCA, isolated by long distances from other known populations.
Reptiles and frogs were not specifically targeted, eight species of lizards were observed.
An impressive list of 45 bird species was compiled, two of which are listed as threatened, including the Powerful Owl.
The survey added two threatened fauna species to the ten previously known from the reserve.
According to Dr Kerle much remains to be learned about the fauna of the conservation area, particularly the frogs and reptiles. A further survey is planned for this coming November.