Posts Tagged ‘Eagle Owl


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)



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.


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 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)

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Dec 2022


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