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Thursday, 22 April 2010

'Owling Success



Yesterday (Thursday 22nd April) I had a quick look on the North Denes before work in the early  morning. Parking by the Links rd car park, I walked across the Denes and immediately saw a pair off Wheatears, male and female on the path ahead, some dog walkers considerately slowly pushed the birds a little towards me (I was crouched down behind the water tap wall provided for former campers) before they suddenly took fright of some other dogs and flew off left.
On the middle of the Oval was one White Wagtail, but workmen about to start work put paid to seeing any other birds. As I walked back across the North Denes, I noticed a male Wheatear perched on the step by a water tap wall and decided to stalk it very slowly (as I have noticed Wheatears in the past will often rest here for a while) my strategy paid off brilliantly as my slow approach paid dividends and I got within 3 metres of the bird, before another dog running by finally flushed it. It flew west onto the path joined by another male Wheatear, so 3 Wheatears seen in all (2 males and 1 female).
A BINS message (this is a Suffolk Rare bird text based information service to the mobile phones of subscribers brilliantly run by Roy Marsh & Lee Woods) stating that the LEO was back in the garden at Rendham near Saxmundham. I had tried to see this bird on Sunday but had missed it. I was keen to have another try as Owls are my favourite family of birds and also because the bird had been showing exceptionally well.
Resigning myself to not being able to twitch it until late afternoon, as I had a meeting to attend, I thought no more of it until after the meeting when I was able to take TOIL from work (with the kind permission of my boss- I'd actually run up about 11 hours that I needed to take!)

I rang Richard W and picked him up at Oulton Broad and drove once again down to the idyllic spot of Rendham village.
The sign was on the gate stating laconically "Owl in the garden" (the owners had given permission to BINS birders to enter the garden to see the bird in their absence). Looking across to the right of the garden we could see it was bordered by a stream that wound across to the west and the southerly perimeter of the site. Sitting out on a bush to the right off the garden, in full view just 10 metres away looking very sleepy indeed was the superb Long- eared Owl. An absolutely cracking bird with all fluffed up "ear- head" tufts sticking up! The bird would sometimes swivel it's head around to briefly look at us before going to sleep again. Sometimes it stretched it's legs to preen them too. We were viewing the Owl from the side & from the angle we were viewing the Owl; the Sun was harshly lighting up the bird.
The courteous and charming young couple who owned the property arrived home shortly afterwards and we were even treated to mugs of tea (an excellent cuppa!)  and a biscuit! Not to be out done, a calling Kingfisher flew east down the stream and past us!
The couple and a pro photographer suggested we could even photograph the bird from a different angle. We walked to next door's house where we were given permission to cross their drive very quietly (going behind the Owl, the Owl was very sensitive to any noise created behind it) past their shed and crossing the stream at the bottom of the garden, we slowly made our way through the nettles in a position overlooking the Owl face on from the north side of the stream. The light was much better here and I was able to take some better pictures on this side of the site. When someone inconsiderately let the gate slam it disturbed the sleepy Owl which woke up, showing it's piercing orange eyes as it looked around. A calling Cuckoo just east of here was my first of the year and a fitting end to a superb late afternoon!

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