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Call for ‘eagle eyed’ spotters to assist Norfolk Wildlife Trust this winter

PUBLISHED: 14:17 11 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:27 11 December 2017

Little owls like dark nest holes and if they can’t find a suitable hole in a tree they will nest in a rabbit hole Picture: Nick Appleton

Little owls like dark nest holes and if they can’t find a suitable hole in a tree they will nest in a rabbit hole Picture: Nick Appleton

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The Norfolk Wildlife Trust has appealed for ‘eagle eyed’ bird watchers and nature lovers to assist it record sightings of three birds this winter.

Kestrels are able to spot a beetle at 50m. Picture: Peter DentKestrels are able to spot a beetle at 50m. Picture: Peter Dent

The colder months of the year are often a good time to spot birds of prey when the trees have shed their leaves.

The silhouettes of the birds, as they perch in search of prey, can often be quite obvious compared to spring and summer months.

As a result, the trust wants help from locals in recording kestrels, little owls and tawny owls and adding their sightings to an online spotter map.

Head of people and wildlife at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, David North said: “Now is a great time of year to be looking for these three distinctive birds.

Tawny owls’ ears are placed asymmetrically to enable them to locate their prey better by sound. Picture: Julian ThomasTawny owls’ ears are placed asymmetrically to enable them to locate their prey better by sound. Picture: Julian Thomas

“Listen out for tawny owls hooting; watch out for the hovering flight of a kestrel on the hunt, and investigate - from a distance - mature trees for a watchful little owl.

“Your wildlife sightings can help us identify areas which are especially important for wildlife in your local area.”

Mr North said participants did not have to be experts to make a valuable contribution to local knowledge of Norfolk’s wildlife as recording different animals was an easy way to get involved in conservation.

It helps the trust understand an animal’s distribution across the county, and identify any areas particularly important or lacking in these species.

“Every wildlife record counts and will be of value,” he said.

Kestrels are the birds commonly spotted hovering over verges at the side of the road looking for prey.

Nationally they are an amber listed species, but in Norfolk kestrels are the most common bird of prey and their numbers are stable.

A small grumpy looking owl with yellow eyes sitting on a post or tree will in all likelihood be a little owl. It is the smallest of the owls and the one most likely to be seen during the day.

The little owl’s conservation status has not been assessed in England, where most of these owls are found, although RSPB estimates that there has been a 24pc decrease in the population.

The best time to spot a tawny owl is at dusk perched on a tree branch close to the trunk as it surveys its territory for food.

10 facts about Norfolk winter raptors

• Kestrel’s Latin name is Falco tinnunculus. Falco comes from falcis meaning sickle because of the falcons hooked talons and kestrel is derived from the French word crechelle meaning ratchet.

• Kestrels don’t build their own nests, they will use holes in buildings, trees, walls, cliffs or they will use old crows nests. They also take readily to nestboxes.

• Kestrels can see a beetle at 50m.

• Little owls feed on earthworms. If a large worm suddenly pops out, whilst being pulled by a little owl, it can cause the owl to fall over backwards.

• Little owls like dark nest holes and if they can’t find a suitable hole in a tree they will nest in a rabbit hole.

• The call of the little owl was thought to have heralded the murder of Julius Caesar.

• The female tawny owl calls too-wit and the male calls too-woo.

• Tawny owls’ ears are placed asymmetrically to enable them to locate their prey better by sound.

• Tawny owls will take smaller owls as prey.

• All three birds can be seen in Norfolk, and added to the wildlife spotter map at: Take part in our survey today – Be ‘eagle’ eyed this winter

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