As a naturalist spellbound by Kabini and its beauty, I have always hoped for that rare and unique sighting that one can only ever dream of encountering. One fateful afternoon safari got me as close to this dream as possible.
We were stationary, listening to the alarm calls of Chital, and hoping to see a tiger that frequents the area. Another jeep drove by, stopping briefly to let us know that they had seen a Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl with a kill. The mere mention of the owl (that too with a kill!) got all of us excited enough to abandon the chance of seeing a tiger and head towards it.
We reached the location but couldn’t spot much in the trees thanks to poor light conditions. Slightly crestfallen, I continued to scan the surroundings till an oddly shaped lump next to a fallen tree caught my eyes. It was the Eagle-Owl! It was staring at us, and it took me a second to find my voice and let my guests know: “There it is! On the ground! In the grass!” A flurry of activity ensued, with everyone scrambling to photograph the bird. With the lack of light, we had to adjust our shutter speed to 1/20 and bump up the ISO to >10,000. The owl then hopped up onto the fallen tree to reveal what was trapped in its claws. Much to the alarm of the guests and our feathery companion, I screamed – “FLYING SQUIRREL!”
Both, the Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl and the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel, are rare animals to come across in Kabini, and lo behold, we saw them together. Albeit one far less active than the other.
Alas, the time to exit the park was looming near and we begrudgingly left the owl with its supper, each of us craning to get one last glimpse…