Archive for Feb, 2022


plastic owl

I had an exchange of emails with Liam Smith last week. Liam is an active cinematographer and works for NBIS. If you don’t know what NBIS is or does you can educate yourself here.

Liam had seen photographs of the Eagle Owl at Oulton St Margaret’s Churchyard and had convinced himself that they showed signs of something around the legs. This was more of an impression that anything else. To show Liam what the owl may have been wearing had it been an escapee I showed him a photo I took of a falcon I photographed at Horsey some years ago.

I had gone to Horsey to find a Rough legged Buzzard that was floating around the area. I did indeed find the buzzard at some distance, and it was being stooped upon by a large falcon which I couldn’t put a name to, not with any confidence anyway. As the falcon relieved itself of frustration and ceased its attack on the hapless buzzard it flew towards me and passed within a few metres before alighting on the wooden steps leading over the dunes. As it cruised past, I could hear tinkling! The bird was wearing jesses and a bell. It was a falconer’s bird.

I crept up on the bird and took the photo below photograph which clearly showed leather aylmeri with brass eyelets.

Liam later came back to me and said he could possibly see a similar eyelet in one of my photos of the eagle owl. I must admit I think he’s right. What I’d taken to be a hind claw looks to me the more I look at it like a brass eyelet. Kudos to him. As suspected by many the eagle owl is indeed most likely an escaped falconer’s bird.

We’ll just have to keep looking for that true vagrant. :0)



A great time leading a course for the Field Studies Council at Flatford Mill in Suffolk over the last few days. A place steeped in history and some great participants on the course made for an enjoyable few days. Although the weather eventually drove us indoors on Tuesday, we had a fabulous day yesterday at Abberton Reservoir.


Craning a neck

A week or more ago I did a guided walk on Halvergate Marshes for the local authority. A lovely crowd of people assembled at Wickhampton Church (worth a visit for the medieval wall paintings) before we had an enjoyable few hours out on the marsh. We saw quite a lot but missing from the days bird list were Common Cranes. It wasn’t until I started to head home after lunch when I’d only gone a few miles that I saw a flock of twenty seven birds at the roadside … I couldn’t get them all in one shot! This is a good number for East Norfolk. I’ve rarely seen more within the county in a single group.

The UK still trails the continent on numbers though. I recall seeing around ten thousands coming into roost in Hungry within the Hortobagy National Park during a visit in October 2007. Closer to home in the Lac du Der region just to the East of Paris during early March 2015 in the last 2 hours of light I watched around twenty thousands of birds move North on gentle southerlies.

Cranes passing through the Lac Du Der region in France some years ago in Spring 2015

A Howl

Another shot of one of those amazing Short eared Owls that are gracing many of Norfolk’s marshes and dunes at the moment.



I’ve seen bold kestrels fly up to Barn Owls and steal their catch. Until yesterday I’ve never seen a Kestrel do the same thing with a Short-eared Owl.

It was as if the marsh was giving birth to owls. They just kept springing up. First one, then two. Three, four five and maybe a sixth. They offered superb photo opportunities. I followed one through the viewfinder of the camera and watched it swing in an arc down to the ground. It jumped as a vole lept forward in a desperate attempt for freedom. The shortie cut off the escape route. A kestrel swung down from above and took the vole from under the owls very nose! … but not without a bit of a fight.


Lincs or Essex

We were speaking to the ‘rellies’ in Australia today when the alert popped up. A red breasted Goose at Cley.

I’d been conscious of a couple of these arctic breeding geese being in both Essex and Lincolnshire this winter. I must admit as we were driving to Cley, shortly after hanging up the phone, I made the comment it was probably the Lincolnshire bird that had made the leap across The Wash. It wasn’t until I got to Cley friend Mark told us the Lincolnshire bird was still present. So this bird must have flown North from Essex.

These small colourful geese should be wintering around the Black Sea before returning to Arctic Russia. Occasionally they get wrapped up with other geese species and end up in the UK. The Cley bird was with a large flock of Dark bellied Brents and was quite obliging.

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Feb 2022


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