RAJA SYED RATHER
Ganderbal: A flock of Long-eared Owls, an Owl specie usually alien to Kashmir, have been spotted and photographed for the first time in the valley by Bilal Nasir Zargar on 17th February 2019, while surveying forest areas across Manasbal Lake, Safapora, District Ganderbal.
Bird watchers described it as “rarest of rare”, and “huge achievement” of wildlife photographer.
Bilal Nasir said,”The owl was brownish with streaks on its breast and belly. It had extremely long ear tufts, buff brown facial disk, and black band down the face between the eye and white bordering bill, and bright orange eyes, perfectly suited for a Northern Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)”.
There have been sporadic reports of this bird but this is the first photographic record from this area. The long-eared owl (Asio otus), also known as the northern long-eared owl, is a species of owl which breeds in Europe, Asia, and North America. The long-eared owl is a medium-sized owl, (12–16 in) in length with an (34–39 in) wingspan and a body mass of 178–435 g. It has erect blackish ear-tufts, which are positioned in the centre of the head. The ear-tufts are used to make the owl appear larger to other owls while perched.
Now, for the first time these rare birds were spotted in huge number in the area of Manasbal.
“Although there were records of its distribution in Kashmir, but this was one of the rare sightings as i counted more than 30 birds,” Bilal said.
Bilal said, “It was a huge relief and a happy movement for me. It was really a lucky day for me as i witnessed one of the planet’s most beautiful creatures,”.
Bilal Nasir Zargar is one of the best photographer in Kashmir. He took up photography at the age of 15 and is a Ph.D in Botany. He enjoys challenging himself in new and odd destinations. Along with his successful nature photography status he maintains a strong presence in environmental groups and raises awareness through his photography. His work depicts his concern over nature conservation and relationship between man and wildlife. Bilal Nasir Zargar has been appointed as a Director Kashmir school of photography affiliated to Youth Parliament J&K (KSP.YPJK). His work has been published in various magazines and websites and has earned many awards for his excellent work in nature photography.
Manasbal Lake is nothing less than a visual treat. It is also a bird watchers paradise as it is a home for a number of birds.