A Spotted Owlet devours a rat for breakfast at Saul Kere, Bengaluru

Rat-atouille? No, it’s a Spotted Owlet at breakfast!

Who doesn’t love a Spotted Owlet? Despite its affable avatar, this pocket executioner peddles death. Though Spotted Owlets spend all day yawning, looking cute, and shrieking abuses at those who dare disturb their siesta, they have sharp talons, hooked beaks, and murder on their minds. 

Bhawana Bhargava is a fellow owl-lover. I met her at Saul Kere, the birding hotspot in my neck of the woods when I began to frequent the lake in early 2020, the year the pandemic made birdwatchers of many Bangaloreans. I observed that she was among the earliest risers to show up, often even before some of the birds that make their home there. 

Bhawana can be seen peering meditatively through her lens at the tangle of dead mesquite trees in the woodland, a favourite location among bird photographers.  

This is her rumination on observing a Spotted Owlet breakfasting on a rat.


A Spotted Owlet devours a rat at Saul Kere, Bengaluru

Morning Serenade: Discovering birdwatching in the city

Every morning, the melodious sounds of birds greet me, inviting me to join their daily serenade. Living in the city and waking up to these sounds is a blessing. My interest in wildlife has always been strong, but I thought it existed only in the wild. I never imagined I could observe such an incredible variety of birds right in my own neighbourhood.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its prolonged periods of staying at home, changed my perspective. Limited to experiencing the outdoors from my window, my interest in bird-watching blossomed after spotting a vibrant kingfisher perched on a tree in my backyard. This unexpected sighting sparked a newfound passion. I realised that my local environment teemed with avian life waiting to be discovered.

Armed with a camera and a pair of binoculars, I started watching birds from my window. A few months later, when lockdown restrictions were relaxed, I began to carry my camera with me during my walks. I had no idea I was sitting on a treasure. Fellow birders told me about lakes nearby, and that’s how I discovered Saul Kere!

Deepening connections at Saul Kere

My visits to Saul Kere have deepened my relationship with these feathered friends and my inner self. Here, I observe a myriad of bird species, each engaged in their daily routines despite harsh conditions and numerous predators. It is enchanting to witness their resilience and joy, whether through their vibrant colours, unique beaks, or dedicated parenting behaviours. Watching these birds tirelessly nurture their young and maintain their lively spirits is a constant source of inspiration. Birding brings me joy and mental peace. I have learned to keep working even when the going gets tough and I feel stuck.

The silent grace of owls

Among my favourite birds to observe are owls, fascinating creatures known for their nocturnal habits and are yet active even during the day. Owls symbolise wisdom, mystery, and spiritual significance. Hindu culture associates them with the goddess Lakshmi, representing wealth, prosperity, and wisdom.

An owl in flight is a marvel of nature—utterly silent, allowing them to glide through the air without a whisper. This stealth and grace make watching owls an almost magical experience, as they move with such fluidity and precision. These birds have influenced the design of the bullet train.

In my early days of birding, I encountered two adorable Spotted Owlets (Athene brama) in an area where an IT park is now being constructed. They watched me from the top of a branch, curiously observing my moves. They flew away as soon as I made eye contact.

Observing owls over time has taught me a great deal about patience and adaptability. These birds are masters of stealth and efficiency, qualities that enable them to thrive in their environment. Their silent flight and keen hunting skills have provided me with insights into the importance of remaining calm and focussed, adapting to circumstances, and utilising one’s abilities to their fullest potential. Owls exemplify how to live harmoniously with nature while maintaining a powerful presence.

A Spotted Owlet’s breakfast 

At Saul Kere, three Spotted Owlets greet bird watchers every morning, sometimes just posing for the camera. One early morning, as I entered the lake, I heard the unmistakable call of a Spotted Owlet. 

Eagerly, I scanned the branches above, hoping to catch a glimpse. There it was, perched on a low branch, with two more owlets keeping an eye on the surroundings from nearby branches. I decided to stand there quietly and observe them for a while. 

What happened next took my breath away. I watched the Spotted Owlet on the low branch cherishing and enjoying a rat kill. As I watched in awe, the bird savoured its meal for over an hour. I cherished every moment as the last morsel of flesh disappeared down the owlet’s gullet. 

Apex predators, owls feed on rodents and help control their populations, preventing the spread of diseases and loss of produce on farms. From the tiniest insect to the mightiest predator, each creature has its place in the intricate web of existence. It is crucial to save their habitats and raise awareness about the vital role these birds play in maintaining ecological balance.

Ethical birding: respect and conservation

As a birdwatcher, I am committed to ethical birding practices, especially when it comes to watching owlets. It is crucial to observe birds from a respectful distance, avoiding any disturbance to their natural behaviours. By doing so, we ensure that we do not interfere with their development or their ability to thrive in their natural habitat. Birdwatching, while a deeply rewarding and enriching hobby, comes with a set of ethical considerations to ensure that enjoyment does not come at the expense of the birds’ well-being or that of their habitats. Remember to respect wildlife and their habitats, keep a safe distance, avoid disturbing nesting sites, and not use playback bird sounds excessively. 

Our lakes play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and provide habitat for diverse species. Preserving and maintaining these natural spaces ensures that future generations can continue to enjoy and learn from the incredible diversity of bird life right in our own backyards.


  • Bhawana Bhargava

    Bhawana Bhargava initially built her career as a dentist. During her maternity break, she became aware of the excessive use of chemicals in daily life and the global garbage crisis. This realisation led her to volunteer in waste management in Bengaluru. Embracing the mantra, "My waste, my responsibility," she began composting, growing organic vegetables, making bio-enzyme natural cleaners, and using a menstrual cup. In 2017, Bhawana joined Stonesoup to promote sustainable products and awareness. The next year, she co-founded Aaditi Stonesoup Solutions Pvt Ltd, focusing on composting products to divert 70% of waste from landfills. In 2020, she launched "Composting as a Service" in Bangalore to help individuals and communities compost effortlessly. Despite challenges, she enhanced her business skills through various programs. Her achievements include being a Startup India Finalist 2022, Elevate Finalist 2022, and an invitee to Rashtrapati Bhawan in January 2024. Bird photography is her sanctuary.

    View all posts
Newsletter signup

It's more fun when you subscribe.
Great content. Zero spam. And your data stays safe. Promise!

Newsletter signup

It's more fun when you subscribe.
Great content. Zero spam. And your data stays safe. Promise!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.