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Friday, 9 March 2018

STOP PRESS! SNOWY OWL IN NORFOLK – FASTEST TWITCH EVER!!!

On Monday there was an 'unconfirmed sighting' of a Snowy Owl at North Wootton, which is no more than a few miles from my house. I didn't believe this sighting for a single second – Barn Owl I thought and didn't even think about again. Until that is, another 'unconfirmed sighting' at South Beach, Heacham on Tuesday popped up on the pager yesterday. So, I started to investigate and search the web for more info. It turns out via LGRE's Twitter account, that new Titchwell RSPB Warden Lizzie Bruce had a couple of people turn up in the visitor centre to ID an owl that they had taken on their phone at Heacham!!! OK, this is serious now! I still didn't completely believe it and thought it might be a hoax.

Today was a typical, normal manic day at work. I don't take the pager to work at this time of the year, but simply check the RBA website on my phone, every lunchtime as I did today. There were no Snowy Owl sightings in my lunch break, which ends at 1pm. If there are any serious birds in Norfolk, I generally kindly get a text from SOMEONE in Norfolk, so I am alerted before I finish work at 4.30pm. So I continued working until 4.30pm when I normally finish, but I was tidying up in the office a bit and several of my colleagues were still there when I left at 4.50pm. I returned straight home.

Now, at lunchtime I was FUMING, to find out that the second home owners who live opposite my mother (and who are hardly ever there), have got their way with their planning application which was submitted last August (2017) and today has been accepted. It is illegal and should have never have been granted. Every single person in my mother's road, objected for so many reasons. The quaint flint end of terrace cottage is going to be extended to be double the size it is, with new parking area opposite where I park currently and is going to have roof terrace and will be made out of larch, metal and big glass windows. The road is private, muddy, wet and a mess in the winter. The new extension will mean that I WILL be blocking them in as will my mother's other neighbour. War is declared. The pond which we have viewed as a family for over 50 years will not be in view anymore and the Great Crested Newts will be disturbed, which a very bad ecologist reported were not there when he did a survey back in September (no, they wouldn't be visible as in hibernation then!) – not a very good ecologist! The new extension is being built over a RIGHT OF WAY. Its such a long story and fed up with all. Anyway, the second I got home from work, I turned the 'Mac' on to see the details of the accepted application on the West Norfolk Planning Website – I was viewing this until 5.14pm. I don't normally look at the computer until much later in the evening. I then decided to look at Facebook and the first thing I saw was a picture of a SNOWY OWL that Sue Bryan had taken from Burnham Deepdale – it was sitting on Scolt Head Island and had been there since 1.22pm! FUCK!

With uniform and work coat still on, I grabbed my bins and flew out of my door like there was no tomorrow. I could not believe that not a single Norfolk birder had texted me about this – if they had I would have been out of the hospital at 4.30pm and gone straight from work. I have never seen a Snowy Owl anywhere and I had hopes and dreams that I might be lucky enough to see one in the future somewhere, but not for one minute did I expect to see one in my own home county! My blood pressure must have been to the max as I flew to Burnham Deepdale (note to self, buy a helicopter). This was the fastest Twitch I have been on!!! I had to ring Lucy on route (hands free) to get her to book a taxi to her rehearsal at 7pm as I normally take her. I was horrified to find loads of snow drifts along the Docking to Brancaster road (BE CAREFUL IN THE MORNING). Slung my car next to the pavement by the garage at Burnham Deepdale. Grabbed the bins, which I didn't even have time to put round my neck and sprinted across the road and along the extremely muddy path. I was puffing and panting like a 100 year old. Ran up the steps to find Billy Rand and Nick Parsons (Oriole Birding) both with their scopes and another birder (whom I know, but don't know his name, sorry). The huge relief when I looked through their scopes to see my first ever Snowy Owl sitting on the roof of the building on Scolt Head Island!!! OMG! Approximately 2 minutes later at 6pm, the Snowy Owl took off and flew west, but we couldn't see how far it flew, as huge trees in the mid foreground obscured our view. So how far it flew, I have no idea. 2 minutes later and I would have dipped – lucky, lucky me. I couldn't risk waiting until tomorrow – if you snooze, you lose as they say.

Cruised back to King's Lynn at a more comfortable speed, filled up in the garage for petrol and returned home. LUCKIEST TWITCH EVER! PHEW! Now need to do the supermarket run, no time for dinner, then pick Lucy up at 10pm and get up very very early tomorrow! I still can't believe what just happened! HUGE THANKS to the couple who popped into Titchwell RSPB!

PREVIOUS RECORDS OF SNOWY OWL IN NORFOLK – 20th CENTURY
1991 – 23rd-25th March at Burnham O.D., Stiffkey, Burnham Norton, Blakeney Point,
1938 – 27th October at Gunton
1922 – 1st-13th May at Waxham, Horsey, Winterton, Sutton
1905 – April for one day (trapped) at Cockley Cley

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