Scops owl sightingMay 27, 2010
An unexpected treat today, we have an owl for company!
Wandering through the kitchen today we glanced out of the window towards the possible hidden garden and through to the plot that has been partially cleared. Sitting quite proudly on one of the branches of a fig tree was a small owl.
Some time with a pair of binoculars and a copy of the invaluable Birds of the Middle East confirmed that he (well, we think it is a ‘he’!) is probably a Scops owl [Otus Scops Cyprius].
When we first spotted him we were concerned that our movements within the house would disturb him so we crept about to grab the binoculars, the camera, the bird books terrified that he might disappear. No danger of that; it seems Scops is here for some time. We first spotted him just after midday and as at 8pm he was still there. He’s changed position once or twice but other than that seems to be contented in his new home.
Ian risked opening the back door to get a better chance of a photo. The owl opened his eyes a quarter way and raised his ears (or are they just ear tufts?) to listen. He must have decided that there was no threat as he was quickly back to his previous position.
We’ve heard an owl in the garden area in recent evenings but not been able to identify it. Of late the occasional pellet has turned up. Now that we’ve seen him it seems likely that Scops has been around for a while. We have to wonder if the process of clearing the derelict patch has made it more inviting to an owl. Apart from our kitchen window the spot he has chosen is fairly secluded and not overlooked, but for us.
For those who may be interested in such things, the author JK Rowling recently revealed that Ron Weasley’s owl is a Scops owl. Readers of the Harry Potter series may recall that the owl, Pigwidgeon, was described as being both very small and very over-excitable. This one is smallish but shows absolutely no signs of being so energetic; he appears to have been sleeping most of the day.
According to Cypriot legend the Scops owl is one of the oldest creatures in the World, mentioned in conjunction with the Ark. The Cypriots have a tale that describes how the owl came by its cry.
But the most characteristic feature is its wailing cry, a lament that brings back to memory the tragic story related to the origin of this bird. According to legend, the bird was originally the son of a poor peasant family who lived at the edge of a forest. He tended the garden and sheep while his younger brother looked after the horses. One day, when the younger brother was in the forest a severe storm arose. The boy returned home and when the elder brother counted the horses he found that one was missing. He did not count the horse on which his brother was riding. Flying into a rage, he ordered his brother to return to the forest and find the presumed lost horse. There, in the unleashed storm, the young boy was struck by a lightning. When later that night his horse returned home without him, his brother was full of apprehension. He went out in search of him, shouting his name “Ghioni”, “Ghioni” but to no avail. At daybreak, when to his utter distress he realized that his brother was dead, he asked Artemis, the Goddess of the forests and of hunting, to release him of his torment. The Goddess turned him into an owl. To this day, the owl flies through the forest all night long calling “Ghioni”. “Ghioni” for his lost brother. Incidentally, the modern Greek noun for owl is “ghionis” and the same word resembles the call of the owl.
We can’t comment on that but it’s fair to say that we’ve made more trips past the kitchen window today, just to see if he’s still there.