At the darkest hour of the night, Nasser bin Hamed al Harthy, an intrepid lensman, embarks on thrilling nocturnal adventures, seeking out elusive owls in the remote wilderness of Oman.
Armed with his expensive camera, Nasser’s quest takes him from the vast desert areas to the heights of Al Jabal Al Akhdhar, and the governorates of Al Sharqiyah, Al Batinah, Al Dakhiliyah, Dhofar and Muscat.
However, Nasser’s passion for preserving these nocturnal predators leads him to share only general information with readers, guarding the specific locations as a means to protect these enigmatic creatures.
Nasser’s nocturnal odyssey unveils the beauty and mystery of these fascinating creatures while promoting their conservation and protection in the wild.
“Venturing into the night to photograph owls is no easy task. This requires patience and hard work,” as Nasser explains, dispelling the notion that it is simply a matter of point-and-shoot.
“All our nocturnal excursions are meticulously planned in advance, employing today’s technology such as Google Earth and online mapping. We also make a point of connecting with local communities to gather valuable information about owl habitats,” he adds.
Once reliable information is gathered from their network, the group of dedicated shutterbugs marks the location using Google Maps, scheduling another night for their photography endeavours.
Nasser and his team have an intriguing technique to draw out these elusive birds from their hiding spots. They play an audible owl call on a portable speaker using Bluetooth, patiently awaiting a response that may take up to 15 minutes. However, the mystery lies in not knowing whether a male or female owl will emerge in answer to their call.
Equipped with Nikon D500 (Lens Tamron VII 150-600), and special torches, they illuminate the landing spot of the responding owl as it makes its call. Determining the direction of the call and its origin, they cautiously switch on their torches to catch a glimpse of these captivating nocturnal creatures.
“It is a sleepless night until morning,” Nasser recollects. Nighttime photography requires precise camera setup, and even then, the outcome may not always meet expectations, but the thrill of capturing these mystical beings is undeniable.
FACTS ABOUT OWLS OF OMAN:
Desert Owl: Similar to Oman's owls, these medium-sized are sandy-brown in colour, with pale underparts and yellow eyes. They inhabit diverse environments, including deserts, semi-desert, rocky ravines and palm groves.
Pharaoh Eagle Owl: Thriving in open deserts, rocky areas and wadis, they are gray-brown in colour, with white streaks on their underparts and striking yellow eyes.
Arabian Spotted Owl: Gray-brown with white spots on their underparts, featuring bright yellow eyes and long, erect ear tufts. Their habitats include open woodlands, rocky areas and wadis.
Barn Owl: These owls are nocturnal predators and known for their silent flight and exceptional hearing. They prey on small animals such as mice, rats, voles and bats. Barn owls have a wingspan of about 3 feet, are pale gray or white with dark eyes, and have a heart-shaped face.
Little Owls: Active during the night, they inhabit forests, grasslands and farmlands. Their diet consists of insects, small mammals and birds, making them crucial for ecosystem balance. They are vocal birds and often nest in cavities in trees or buildings and recognisable by their heart-shaped faces.
Eurasian Scops Owl: Gray-brown with a pale face, underparts and shoulder lines. They feature small ear tufts that rise when alert and are found in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, scrubland and gardens. Their distinctive single, plaintive hoot call resonates across distances, serving to attract mates and defend territory.
Photos by Nasser bin Hamed al Harthy