Hold the front page! Hundreds of bird watchers rushed over to Norfolk over the weekend, to the RSPB reserves at Titchwell Marsha and Snettisham, to catch a glimpse of a rare and iconic visitor, a female snowy owl, made famous by Hedwig, the devoted, post-carrying messenger in the Harry Potter films.
These dazzlingly white birds are normally at home in the high Arctic tundra rather than the coastal areas of Britain. During winter, they sometimes migrate south looking for food, and it’s possible that this bird flew in from Scandinavia, or as far away as Canada, following the recent Arctic weather.
Breed pairs of snowy owls were briefly found on Shetland in the sixties and seventies, and there have been the occasional sightings in the UK. But it is extremely rate to see a snowy owl as far south as Norfolk.
Ludwig, the Devoted and Loyal Own Companion
In the Harry Potter films, Hedwig is portrayed as a skilled hunter and affectionate, loyal companion. In real life, they are reclusive birds unused to contact with humans.
Unlike other species of owl, snowy owl are active in daylight hours, and can be seen gliding with extraordinary dexterity over low ground, looking for small mammals such as rabbits and voles. Excitingly for twitchers, they are happy to sit still for long periods of time either on a low perch or boulder, giving wildlife fans and birders plenty of time to study and admire these rare and almost mythical birds.
The RSPB thanked everyone who has made the trip to Norfolk to see the visiting snowy owl for being responsible birdwatchers and following “The Birdwatchers’ Code”, which calls on birders to:
The Birdwatchers Code
1. Avoid disturbing birds and their habitats – the birds’ interests should always come first.
2. Be an ambassador for birdwatching.
3. Know the law and the rules for visiting the countryside, and follow them.
4. Send your sightings to the County Bird Recorder and the Birdtrack website.
5. Think about the interests of wildlife and local people before passing on news of a rare bird, especially during the breeding season.
For more information about the Birdwatchers’ Code and responsible birdwatching, visit www.rspb.org.uk/