The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - February

Date: 15 February 2019

Last month I mentioned that seeing owls was high on my wish list for 2019 and I’m delighted to say that a few days after writing that I came across a Barn Owl at Mellis Common.  I spotted it at dusk as the owl was hunting, flying low back and forth, quartering the field. When in flight with their wings outstretched these birds appear surprisingly large and it made a splendid sight. I was able to park my car and observe for a few minutes – great entertainment. Then, a week or so later, I had another close encounter whilst driving along the road from Thornham towards Gislingham. This time, a Barn Owl appeared on my left, flying just above the hedgerow alongside the road before flying over the road to disappear into the woods. Again, this was at dusk and the low angle of the sun really brought out the owl’s beautiful colours! Sadly, I didn’t have my camera with me for either of these sightings but I thought it would be nice to include here an old photo of mine – albeit of a captive Barn Owl seen at the Birds of Prey Centre at Old Warden Aerodrome, Bedfordshire. Later, I came across a BBC program all about owls –Natural World, Super Powered Owls, which was mainly about Barn Owls and is available on the iPlayer – well worth a look.


Back in the garden are Long Tailed Tits. A couple of weeks ago, we had a small group of them on our rose arch and one obligingly posed for a photo. I think that these little birds are very cute with their gorgeous colouring and at this cold time of year, they’re all fluffed-up against the cold! Seen after an absence of several months has been a Goldcrest, which is the smallest bird in the UK. It’s also very fidgety, which makes photographing one of these little marvels quite a challenge! This long range shot was taken through the glass of our patio doors and isn’t of the highest quality – nevertheless, it serves as a sort of record.

Tony Clarke is an enthusiastic Gislingham birder who has set himself the challenge of recording all his monthly sightings within the boundary of the village. In January, Tony has seen a pair of Stock Doves and Nuthatch, as well as Fieldfares, Redwings, Linnet , Golden Plover and a Barn Owl, to name just a few. As you may know, The Messenger is also available in an online version and Tony’s lists will be included there in full, including where and when the birds were seen. Take a look at On reflection, I thought that last month’s photo of a Kestral, although locally taken, was rather distant, so here’s much closer shot taken at Horsey beach, Norfolk, a couple of years ago. On this occasion I was able to approach the bird to within about 8 m and to take photos until I got fed up - this sort of thing has never happened before or since! Happy Wildlife Watching!

Tony Clarke’s Gislingham Bird List for January: