The Giant Scops Owl (Otus gurneyi) is an endemic owl of the Philippines. Also known as the Mindanao Eagle-Owl, it is intermediate in size and structure to the scops and the eagle-owl. It is a threatened species due to habitat loss but little is known about it’s biology and behaviour.
On my trip to the Philippines to see the Philippines Eagle nesting in Mindanao, I had an opportunity to encounter this bird. While staying in a resort near Davos, our bird guide mentioned that he will be looking for this owl species at the resort itself in the early hours of the morning as he had heard its call on a previous trip. If he succeeded, he will wake us up immediately to get a view.
We thought little about it, and proceeded to sleep peacefully that night. In the middle of the night I was rudely awaken by some shrieks just outside my chalet room. I thought what an awful noise made by some unknown animal and try to get back to sleep. Just then, the phone rang, with our guide informing us that he had seen the bird. Without much preparation and just with my bare camera and lens, I rushed out to meet the guide who was shining his torchlight at a short distance away.
Turns out the shriek was the call of the owl, and it had moved from next to our chalet to another tree closer to the road. I quickly went to action and tried my best to photograph it while it stayed. In my haste, I forgot to bring my tripod, so all pictures were handheld and many were not sharp. The owl was in no hurry to go anywhere though, so I could have just return to my chalet and brought back the tripod. That would have enabled me to video the owl, something which I regret I did not think of in the excitement of meeting this bird.
Below are some pictures that were sharp and without the dreaded red-eyes picture spoiler. I particularly liked the last one where it turned its head with what I think was a sign of curiosity over our presence.