ATR - Day 66: Found the endangered Forest Owlet at Melghat Tiger Reserve
To my absolute delight, we found a Forest Owlet, which is a rare sight anywhere in the world, for there are not more than a thousand of them left anywhere.
December 05, 2023
Tuesday, 11:30 PM
Shahnoor Tourist Sankul,
Village Popatkhed, Tehsil Akot,
District Akola, Maharashtra
The highlight of today was spotting a Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti (formerly, Heteroglaux blewitti), which is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since August 6, 2018. It is reported to have been found at just 7 locations and there are only between 250 and 999 living mature adults of the species. Forest Owlet was first described in 1873 but was not seen after 1884, for which reason it was considered extinct for many years until it was rediscovered on November 25, 1997, when a single Forest Owlet was spotted in north-western Maharashtra, at 460 m elevation, north of Shahada, a town in the Tapti River Valley. And then on the morning of November 26, 1997, another Forest Owlet was spotted by the same observers “in another large leafless tree about 200 m from the first sighting”. And once again on November 27, 1997, another Forest Owlet was briefly seen by the same observers “between the two main sighting areas”. And thus the once-lost species was rediscovered over a century and a decade (113 years, to be exact) later.
A 25-day long status survey from January 28, 2000 to February 22, 2000 was undertaken by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in the central highlands in India to have a clearer picture of the redistribution of Forest Owlet and 25 Forest Owlets were found and two new sites for the species were discovered — Khaknar forest range in Madhya Pradesh and Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. Forest Owlet is a largely non-migratory bird; so if it is not where it is generally found, one might assume it is nowhere.
And today in the morning, I happened to come across one of these very rare Forest Owlets at the Melghat Tiger Reserve. So I am quite understandably happy.
After watching the Forest Owlet, clicking its pictures and recording some footage of it, I returned to a warm welcome by some of the officials of Melghat Tiger Reserve. Also, some of the followers came over and presented bouquets for which I am deeply grateful. In the afternoon, we had a relaxed, informal chat session with the visiting followers and also some friends who had come visiting before we left for the evening safari. However, the evening safari was uneventful even though the reserve is amazingly lush and beautiful. It is not for no reason that they call it the “magical Melghat”.
When we returned from the safari, we were treated to the desi dinner of jowar roti, moth dal and desi ghee, which combination is utterly delectable. One has to taste it to know just how delicious it is; no words can do justice to it.
At Melghat Tiger Reserve, our biggest problems continues to be the network here. It’s near-impossible to connect even on phone. We did upload today’s Vlog, yes, but it was extremely difficult to pull that off.