Archive for Jan, 2022



I’d seen a post on facebook that pictured what purported to be a Long Eared Owl seen in East Norfolk. Looking at the photo I could see it was in fact an Eagle Owl. It wasn’t too difficult to find out where it was; it fact it wasn’t a million miles away from the bird that Tania and I saw at Winterton a few years back. Maybe it was the same bird maybe it was a fresh one.

I went to see it a little earlier in the week. I couldn’t find it. You would think that something the size of quite a large dog sat in a tree wouldn’t be too difficult to find. However, it wasn’t in the trees where I was told it had been in previous days. Interestingly a few of the dog walking locals said it had been around for a couple of months. I left without seeing it at all.

I went back for another go in sunnier weather on Wednesday. I was still some distance from the site when I heard a single, low, deep ‘Woo oo oo oo’. It could only be the Eagle Owl. I searched the area from where the call emanated. It took me a little while but I eventually picked it out and found a place where it wasn’t obscured by branches.

As dog walkers and residents passed me their curiosity was quite naturally peaked and they wanted to ask what I was looking at. Some had seen it previously. Despite being ‘three stories-up’ the bird was obviously not relishing their sometimes very loud voices below and walked off into a less than accessible position. So I left him in piece to enjoy his siesta.

Whether these birds are wild vagrants from the continent or escaped falconers birds can never be proven one way or another. It certainly wasn’t sporting rings or jesses that I could see. I did look for a feather, thrown pellet or a splash of ‘whitewash’ that may just hold an isotope or DNA secret of its origins, but wasn’t successful in finding anything.


Horns of a Dilemma

Some time ago, in October 2001 to be exact, I was on the Isles of Scilly. Where else would you expect me to be in October? The Scilly archipelago lies some 20 something miles from the outreaching peninsula of Cornwall. Surrounded by the Atlantic, the islands are a crossroads for migrating birds; a rest haven amid the ocean.

Sadly my note books for this period have been destroyed. We’ll not go into that now but I do so regret not having them. They were a record of my thoughts and observations that I would love to have as a reference. So what follows is from my memory of the day.

I was on the beautiful island of Tresco for the day. Anyone who has been to Tresco knows what I mean when I call it beautiful. It’s a charming place with a unique atmosphere rivaled by nowhere on Earth I’ve been. Having caught the 10:30am morning boat from St Mary’s and landed at New Grimsby Quay at the North end of the Island I had come to Tresco for some particular bird. I can’t remember what it was. There are a couple of large freshwater pools on Tresco that attract duck and waders as well as rails and crakes, so to be honest it could have been anything. I just can’t remember. I can’t even recall if I saw whatever I went to see. However, I remember thinking I’d catch the early boat back to St Mary’s at 2:30 so I crossed the Helliport and made my way to Carn Near at the South of the Island to catch the return boat.

As I walked down the concrete roadway each isolated clump of vegetation seemed to be harbouring a Stonechat. As I neared the quay I could see there was a chap sitting down on the ground to the right of the path up ahead of me. He was watching something through his bins on the area of short cropped turf and gravel in front of him. I stopped and lifted my optics. ‘Bugger me’, I thought, it’s a Shorelark. I’d never seen a Shorlark on Scillies before. It was a Scillies tick! I continued walking until I was opposite the lark and took another good look. It wouldn’t have to be a long look. The boat was due.

The more I looked at it the odder it appeared. It didn’t look quite right for Shorelark. Something was different. I made the decision to forego the 2:30 boat in favour of the one leaving at 4:30. I wanted to sit down and study this bird. I remembered noting the different face pattern and the colouring of the scapulars being unfamiliar.

This week, 21 years later, the BOU accepted this bird as the first UK record of ‘Horned Lark’. This is a sub-species of Shorelark and is Nearctic in origin. Residing in the arctic region of North America and Canada.

Subsequently the lark visited other islands and I think the shot below was taken on St Agnes by Niall Machin who kindly allowed me to use his photo.

So this tale gives anyone that cares to read it a cautionary warning. Two in fact. Firstly if something doesn’t look quite right, study it … and take notes. Secondly keep your old notebooks. You’ll regret it if you don’t.


Towering Waders

I caught a flock of Grey Plover sweeping through the village last week. Those dark auxiliaries; the armpit feathers, are a dead giveaway for an otherwise quite bland winter plumage wader. Several flocks have been around the village for a week or two now. If they aren’t in the clifftop fields they will undoubtedly be down on the beach.


Grab a grebe

Already this year when sea watching some of the scarcer grebes have cropped up. Usually, they are just a fly-past. If we’re having a lucky day they’ll be sat on the water and if we are even luckier it’ll be windless with a nice flat sea and they’ll not be ducking in and out of the troughs and waves like a fairground target. Invariably though they are distant and difficult to see. So, when one of these grebes ends up dropping in on an inland body of water, they are worth going to see.

At the beginning of the year a Red Necked Grebe was reported on Ormsby Broad so Tania and I thought we’d pay it a visit.

On arrival it had a number of admirers and was pretty distant and it never did come much closer … but at least it wasn’t constantly disappearing in a swell.


Hardly Iceland

A day or so before New Years Eve the rain had abated and left a balmy end of year Southern wind casting up from the Azores. The warmest winter temperatures for a long time … maybe on record.

I took the decision to make the most of the heatwave and visit Cley to seek out the Iceland Gull that had been roaming the coastline there for the past week or two. It had been visiting a seal carcass just east of the beach road. I thought that may be a good place to start. Even as I walked down the beach I could see the distinctive white winged form cutting the air distantly towards North scrape. It promptly flew over me and West to Halfway House. I’d no sooner put the message out and it returned and flew east towards Weybourne. Taking a photo wasn’t going to be that easy. To add to the difficulty the beach couldn’t have been busier if it had been a bank holiday. Still I had some good company as i waited for the gull to return which it eventually did. Sadly it looked to have an issue with one of its legs. I was told this was because of an entanglement with fishing line the previous day. Enough said.

A seasonal bird in un-seasonal weather.

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Jan 2022


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