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Hickling (Lucky Pony evening)

18th August 2009

Last night a Red-footed Falcon roosted near Hickling, and even though there had been no further sightings since lunchtime, me & Gary felt fairly confident that it would come back to it favoured trees to roost today. There was a surprising lack of birders around (2 all evening), but the lack of waders on Rush Hills may go some way to explaining it. A walk as far as the fields near Heigham Sound produced 3 Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and a Marsh Harrier. A sillouetted dove was eventually clinched as a Turtle Dove thanks to Gary's perseverance.
Near the hide two Bearded Tits and an Emerald Damselfly (although I'm going to check to see if I can string Willow) lightened the evening. On the way back Gary said that he hadn't seen the (konik) ponies for ages, so when I spotted the herd I yelled "PONIES!" We had stopped abruptly, and were about to set off again when an owl flew out of some bushes. A Long-eared Owl! It flew into a small woods, where it was promptly mobbed by Jays, briefly flying back out and then out of sight. Only my second LEO, and my 206th Norfolk BOU bird of the year, modest, but my record (which should grow nicely when the northerlies start).
Walking back to the car, we noticed hundreds of geese collecting between bales in a cut field. I estimated around 700, about 200 of which were Canada, the rest Greylag. At least three hybrid geese were present, two long-necked and white faced, whilst one looked like a brownish Canada Goose. Probably all Greylag x Canada, but Gary took some photos to check. Whilst watching the geese I thought I'd got the red-foot, but a second pass showed the bird in question to be a Hobby. A dip, but a very satisfactory evenings birding.

Year list 215 species (206 Norfolk)


  1. Hi James

    A LEO would be an exceptional record for Hickling. Tawny's are regular in that area. Any chance the bird was a Tawny?


  2. Hi Tim.

    In short, no, both myself and Gary were happy it was a LEO. We got two different views, flying away and then a side profile, and noted a uniform colouration across back and wings (no white areas on wings), thinner looking wings than Tawny, barring on tail and the proportions of the head to body wasn't as large as Tawny.

    I haven't heard of LEO in that area before, so I understand the question. Due to observer coverage and the presence of Tawny Owls I doubt that it was a "local" bird, but being too early for migrants I can't really suggest much towards its origins. There was one reported at Cantley earlier in the month, and in 2007 a fledged juvenile was seen in August at Acle, but neither of those are probably relevant.

    Regards, James

  3. As Tim says, an exceptional record in August. I presume you're aware that both long-eared and tawny have a barred tail and white markings on the wings, but in general, tawny owls are more uniform across back and wings?

    I suppose structure would clinch it though....

  4. It's a good point. I am happy with the structure, as it first came into view from behind a sort of shrubby copse the thought process ran harrier-SEO-LEO,at one point it was flying directly away and the wings looked longer and more pointed than I would have expected from a Tawny. Of the Tawnys I've seen in flight before I can remember visible amounts of white mid-wing, which if present were not clear on this bird. The barred tail is probably of no use to the ID at all.

    In view of the date and a lack of experience with LEO, I'm not going to submit it to the county recorder or Bird Atlas. I'm still confident enough in our original ID to think that it was one, but we're talking percentages rather than certainty. If nothing else this is encouragement to get out and find and note an indisputable one!

    Thanks to both of you for your input, and congratulations on the Pec Sand Ilya.

  5. Try the east coast in late October or early November. Slightly misty conditions, with light north-easterlies or calm conditions after a bit of a north-easterly blow seem to bring them in.