A couple of weeks ago Holmethorpe birding guru Gordon Hay had been listening out for Tawny Owls from the edge of the patch up near the A25 when rather than a Tawny Owl calling, he heard a Long-eared Owl instead.
Long-eared Owl sightings are sometimes cloaked with censure to protect them from over-enthusiastic birders who may disturb the owl from its roosting site with torches and alike – as happened at Beddington last winter.
So, while this was indeed very exciting news, it was agreed that the actual location of the Long-eared Owl would be kept under wraps.
A few days later, having invited a couple of fellow patch watchers to come for a listen one evening, Gordon heard what he thought was another Long-eared calling.
It was too irresistible. In the middle of the night (3.30am!) Gordon decided to locate the roosting site. The owl called very close by so he was pretty sure he knew where it was. That morning on March 31, as it was getting light, Gordon went to see whether he could get a visual of the owl.
And he did.
Except it wasn't a Long-eared Owl at all.
It was a captive Eagle Owl!
Why someone would want to keep a large owl in a cage is anyone's guess, but it proves just how even the very best birders can be hoodwinked sometimes.
That same morning I was walking through Mercers Farm when I heard a bird that sounded like a raptor calling overhead. I had no idea what it was as it flew by, but it was smaller than a Kestrel. Could it be a Merlin? The problem was it didn't really fly like a small raptor, and looking at the distant photos I had managed to take, it didn't have the jizz of a raptor either.
I put the word out to Gordon, who rang back to tell me the bad news over the Long-eared Owl, and suggested the bird was more likely to be an escaped Cockateel that had been seen on occasions in the area. It all fitted into place.
As if birding wasn't hard enough at times, the birds themselves have a habit of making fools out of us.