short eared owl - Thorpe Marshes

short eared owl - Thorpe Marshes

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Its that time of the year again!

   My calender has a evening specially put aside in the month of June every year for our annual visit to the see the Nightjars. Its my 4th year now and every time has been a special day to remember.
 Yorkie drove us down and the evening got off to a cracker with a low flying male Hen Harrier, flying over the road in front of us, which nearly ended up in us ditching the car as Yorkie pulled over frantically to get a better view of it!As we were watching the Hen Harrier fly away from us, 2x Marsh Harriers appeared to our left over the fields, i started to get that feeling we were in for good evening.
   We parked and met up with Steve, Tony & Jenny and decided to scan about for a bit as it was still early& you know how those Nightjars like the dark. We picked up about half a dozen Linnets, 3x Blackcaps ,at least 3x Common Whitethroats  and a few rather smart  Herring Gulls over head but nothing too exciting until Yorkie spotted something in the Brambles and bushes .After much searching and bit of waiting Tony picked it up, a cracking Lesser Whitethroat. Ive only had quick glimpses of this bird before but this view was special as it was out on a small branch for quite a while & was looking rather neat. Then i spotted a Sparrowhawk flyingg left and then a Cuckoo going right - it was all happening!We then decided we had had enough fun scanning about as this wasn't the reason we were hear, no no  no we had a Nightjar to see! We made our way to our favoured spot,set up in all stood quiet  and waited for that super `churring` of the Nightjar to begin!  After no more then 20 minutes we heard the `churring` which seemed to be coming  from the wooded area in front of us. Then we heard that clap & call which they make in flight and got our bins to our eyes & soon picked it up flying to our left, showing its magical white spots off as it went. The buzz from seeing & hearing this was something i  always cherish as this was my first real birding experience, as Yorkie took me here 3 years ago and was one of the reasons i got so interested in birdwitching. Yorkie soon picked it up ,sitting in a fence post. Then it took up and circled us a few times. I'm not sure if it was cause we were there or it was just doing its usual flight patern but either way these were the best views ive ever had ,made even better as it was still good light ,so i was one happy boy! I managed to take a bit of footage on me camera but its not fantastic , but does show you how close we were to this superb bird-enjoy!  

After 45 minutes we headed off ,leaving behind the churring Nightjars and Bats that were about to a new sound .. that of a calling Tawny Owl. We managed to track it down eventually,in a road where we had parked our cars. It was calling away from a tree for a while & then appeared in flight for us all to see . A super bird to end our trip on.What a cracking evening & im already looking forward  to getting next years calender & setting aside a date for next years one!  


  1. Are you sure it was a Hen Harrier? This is an extremely unusual record. I think there is only one record given for July in modern times in Birds of Norfolk (July 19th 1995). No chance it was a Montagu's?

  2. Points suggesting g that the bird we saw was a male hen harrier ;

    1. The size of the bird was smaller than the 2 Marsh Harriers(1 male
    and 1 female) that flew around us while we were observing it.

    2. The bird appeared much more sleaker and graceful.

    3. The flight was more graceful and purposeful than that of the marsh,
    and when it glided it moved rapidly.

    4. The colouration of the bird we saw was clearly obvious... Pale slaty
    grey upperparts with black wing tips, and very pale underparts, and a
    clearly visible white rump.

    This colouration in our view rules out a male marsh harrier as there
    was no clear visible sign of brown colouring on back or belly (I know
    you can have pale morphs of this species but as previously stated the
    size and shape was different!!),and also male Montagu's as we could not
    see any sign of the black band in the wing or any underwing markings.
    5. The last sighting of a male hen harrier in june was 1995, so it
    shows this does happen and should never be discounted for the future either.

    We did not set out or expect to see this bird given that we had seen
    them on passage earlier in the year.

    Although we are not the worlds best birders, do feel that with birds
    like this we can identify the key differences.

    We dont make many fieldnotes, as we birdwatch for pleasure and
    enjoyment, rather than to have our names associated with bird findings
    etc. Maybe as a result of this questioning we will do more in the
    future.saw, after reviewing our mental picture from that day and the used of
    books and internet, I am still 99% certain the bird we saw was indeed a
    male hen harrier.
    If people want to discredit this then thats ok with me. If it doesn't
    get used in a county record.. thats ok with me.
    I know what I saw, and I stand by that.
    Hope that clears that up.

  3. Shaky, This sounds like a comment made from the heart. Birding for most of us is usually a hobby and done for enjoyment.We learn from getting out and seeing the birds, and from being in the presence of better birders.
    Your points of identification do tend to support that what you saw was a Hen Harrier and not a Montagu's as was being possibly suggested. The date is somewhat challenging, but then that is birding. Never expect anything, but always expect the unexpected.
    Keep up the good work with the Blog, it makes enjoyable reading.
    Happy Birding