Vagrant or Escapee

There had been talk of an escaped Eagle-Owl at Winterton for a number of days. Twitter was alive with the fact it had a ring on it’s left leg, someone had lost one locally and it wasn’t a Eurasian Eagle-Owl. RBA (Rare Bird Alert) were reporting the bird as an escape and confirmed it as sporting a ring on it’s left leg; in fact they still are at the time of writing.

I was intrigued by the fact an awful lot of people should want to go and see an escaped bird and I was flicking through a good number of photos of the bird on twitter and not one of them showed it to be ringed. So this last week you know what, I decided to go and take a look at the bird myself. … just to satisfy my own curiosity.

I’ve seen Eurasian Eagle Owl before in the UK at the Forest of Bowland as well as abroad in France.

We went to see the Winterton bird on Sunday and although I saw it I didn’t see it clearly, but I did hear it call continuously for around 20 minutes or so. There are several Eagle Owl species in the world. Visit https://www.xeno-canto.org/ and listen to them all. The Winterton bird is without doubt a male Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

I met a chap at the site who told me the Owl was sure to be an escape as he knows the woman who owned the bird before she lost it from ‘just up the road’. When pressed further she apparently lost the bird over four years ago! I think it’s safe to say it’s likely we’re looking at a different bird.

A second visit to Winterton was warranted. I wanted a much better look at it so we went again. Luckily it was showing much better. We watched this impressively large bird for a considerable time. Eagle Owls have a cloak of feathers that drown the leg area. Seeing if it was ringed required a lot of patience but we hung it out for a good number of hours. We saw it stretching, scratching, preening and all number of activities. IT IS NOT RINGED on it’s left leg or it’s right leg. So I’m not sure where that idea came from. Does anyone know?

None of this proves it is a genuinely wild bird of course. However, I’d ask you this: which is more likely to reach a coastal site in the UK … an Eagle Owl from Scandinavia 450 miles away … or a Paddyfield Pipit* from India 6000 miles away?

(*DNA analysis has recently confirmed a bird likely to have some genetic content of a Paddyfield Pipit visited Cornwall in October/November this year. Paddyfield Pipit is a non-migratory species)


Laying Fallow

We watched the Fallow Deer the other week. Between the rutting this fawn was having a good old drink from his mum.



Gone Fishing

This Red throated Diver came into Wells Harbour the other day and gave us really good views and photo opportunities.



We were stood on the beach a few weeks ago and watched as two distant specks became larger. As they got closer the two dark birds became wildfowl, then geese. Eventually they revealed themselves as a pair of Dark-bellied Brent Geese. Reaching the shore they circled and came down to the sand where they rested a while, before once again moving on.



We stumbled across this Curlew the other week. Flagged and numbered I suspect he was ringed and tagged on the Wash but I’ve not yet received information back from the ringer.



Roughing it

The sun was out the wind was down. A quick late afternoon visit to Wells was on the cards for the Rough legged Buzzard that had been seen there quartering the fields.

Stood looking North overlooking the eastern pines a Swallow flew through; an amusing distraction. I can’t think what it was feeding on as there were few flies. It was also good to see a ploughed field heaving with Lawing, Golden Plover and a few Snipe.  Pied Wagtails were gathering to roost seemingly ignoring the hanging Marsh Harriers that were steadily working the field borders. Out from grass tussocks flapped a buteo obviously of some size. The white uppertil and the solid black belly were dead giveaways as to it’s ID. It never did come close but it had a regular hunting circuit. It eventually went back to its favoured bush, presumably to roost.

Always attractive these visitors from the Arctic. Such powerful birds. We always seem to get a splattering each Winter.




Good friend Simon and I were on the shingle bank at Cley not but a day and a half before Mark Golly found his Isabelline Wheatear. In fact I distinctly remember saying “Let’s have a walk down here Simon you never know what we might find” We found nothing of note; but Mark found a first for Cley and nobody deserves it more.

In yesterday’s bright sunshine I joined friends Bob and Bill to see if I could better photographs I had of the last Norfolk bird which turned up at Gun Hill in the later part of October 2016. It wasn’t a problem. The bird performed admirably. Fearless and confiding are perhaps the terms I would use. As we stood chatting and enjoying one another’s company the erect portly little fella approached us. Flycatching, sallying and running along the shingle completely oblivious of our admiration. This species breeds not much nearer than Turkey and covers a range East all the way out to Turkestan. Raised in steppe-desert perhaps it had never seen people before.

Nearby was a moving wave of Snow Buntings rolling over one another along the sea wall. These as well as the long staying Long tailed Duck were a supporting cast. A couple of Otters even got in on the act. A distant calling lark at the back of Snipes Marsh just may have been Short-toed … maybe!

As I carted my much too heavy photo gear back to the reserve centre the whole scene got me a-thinking-back to the Isles of Scillies when I saw my first Isabelline Wheatear. I stood on the Golf Course; the high point of St Mary’s. The view from there is to die for. Islands, sea and setting sun heaven. On one particular October day in the 1990’s it was enhanced by a similar sallying Wheatear. The supporting cast then was a Red throated Pipit and an Upland Sandpiper. A sort of East meets West mix. It was possible to stand between all three and ‘do a 360’ to take them all in. Heady days.

I had lunch back at Cley. Looking out from the busy restaurant, over the seemingly even busier marsh. I couldn’t help feeling how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place as North Norfolk. There’s just one thing missing … soon to be corrected.


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