A Review of accounts of luminosity in Barn Owls Tyto alba
|Paper by Fred Silcock 2004-06-04, last updated 2006-06-07|
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Recent Min Min Sighting - submitted June 2006
Wheat farmer Dennis Stasinowsky of Mantung, South Australia, rang to say that on the evening of 25 th May, 2006, while repairing the breakdown of a machine with which he was planting a crop he heard Barn Owls vocalizing nearby. He believed there were at least two birds involved and that they were in close proximity to each other. Darkness by this time had overtaken him and as he was making his way to his truck to fetch a particular tool he saw a Min Min about 150 metres ahead and moving away. He said the light was not as bright as some Min Mins he had seen. Because of the darkness he could not with any accuracy judge the light's height above ground level but estimated the distance to be no more than a few metres. Within the minute the light rose suddenly to what seemed like another three or four metres, rapidly became smaller and took on a more reddish hue than previously. Soon after that it disappeared completely. While returning to the broken-down machine a Barn Owl flew by within about five metres of him.
This information does not prove a connection between the Min Min and Barn Owls, but it is interesting that both entities were in the area at the same time. At least it supported my old maxim that wherever you find a Min Min you find Barn Owls. Mantung is mallee country south of Loxton on the Murray River and in a region where both Min Mins and Barn Owls are well known. My first contact with Mr. Stasinowsky was several years ago when he reported seeing a Min Min fly into a low tree and come to rest on a branch. Shortly afterwards the light cut out and sitting in its place was a Barn Owl. Eventually the bird dropped to the ground and was joined by another Barn Owl and the two flew away together. Farmer Bill Curtin at nearby Caliph in December of 2004 reported seeing a Min Min on his property several months previous to our conversation. David Chiltern of Magee near Mantung had seen a number of Min Mins over the years and spoke of one he observed occupying itself within the walls of an old, roofless, local community hall. Away from the Mantung region and much farther south, in Tasmania, Mike Ellson of Howden told of a Min Min he had encountered near Campbell Town in 2004. He was so convinced (by the light's behaviour) that he was watching a bird that next day he sought information on luminescing birds on the Internet. It is interesting that timber worker Alex Oakley gave detailed accounts of Min Mins he and colleagues had seen over about twenty years close to Campbell Town. Reports of Barn Owl sightings in Tasmania are few; however, one noted Tasmanian ornithologist remarked that if he were looking for the species in Tasmania, around Campbell Town is where he would expect to find them. The local industries are mixed farming and timber production.
Anecdotal evidence is one thing. The primary need of the research remains a program aimed at inducing luminescence in the Barn Own under controlled conditions.
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