‘Leo’ The Glandford Long-eared Owl

‘Leo’ The Glandford Long-eared Owl

Photo by Kevin Elsby

The 29th December 2022 started just like any other ‘twixmas’ day at Cley Spy:
 We opened at 10am, ready to welcome our usual mix of regular customers and holiday season visitors. 
 Little did we know that another more unusual visitor would soon be joining us…

At about 11:30, a customer was outside trying out a few scopes, when he asked us; “Do you know that you have an owl in the bush at the end of the garden?”
A quickly-grabbed pair of binoculars resulted in the bird almost being id’d as one of our regular Tawny Owls, until (after about 5 seconds) Simon said “ Errrr, I think we’re going to need a scope!”
The scope revealed that this was no Tawny, but a beautiful Long-eared Owl.

A flurry of fast-fingered smartphone activity rapidly told the World about our amazing visitor and our car park soon started to fill up

Over the next two months, our Long-eared Owl (fairly quickly given the moniker ‘Leo’) visited us on a total of 13 occasions.
On days that Leo was here, he/she would be sat on the same prominent branch when our staff arrived at 9am and would normally stay there, in plain view, until we closed at 4pm. 
People came from far and wide to see our feathered celebrity and numbers increased furthermore when Leo received a mention on the BBC’s Winterwatch.
Many of our visitors commented that though they’d seen Long-eared Owls in the past, they’d never had such a good view of one, perched completely out in the open. 

One of our visitors took a fantastic sequence of photos on the 30th January of Leo catching and eating a large rat. We were very pleased that our visitor was happy to earn its keep as resident pest controller!

On the 8th February, Leo was joined by a Tawny Owl that sat very close-by in an adjacent tree. Seeing two different species of owl sat out in broad daylight was a rare treat indeed.

During February it also became apparent that though our owl had a liking for a certain small corner of our Glandford garden, it was perfectly happy to roam further afield for food. Local birders photographed Leo hunting along the West Bank of Cley Marshes Nature Reserve and also alongside the River Glaven, just East of Glandford village.

When visiting us to see Leo, we asked our visitors to make a small donation to the Oriental Bird Club (https://www.orientalbirdclub.org/) a relatively small charity that helps with the conservation of birds in the Oriental region and educates people on their protection.
At time of writing, these donations have added up to more than £2000. These funds have been allocated to help towards the conservation of the endangered River Lapwing in Bhutan.

The River Lapwing in Bhutan is to benefit from LEO’s stay at Glandford

Photo by Richard Webb

Leo’s final visit to us was on Monday 27th February 2023. We were treated to fantastic views, in particular towards the end of the day, when Leo headed out to hunt in the field adjacent to our shop.

Sadly, Leo’s story didn’t end happily. On the morning of Saturday 4th March, a Glandford resident reported on Twitter that they’d found the body of a Long-eared Owl on a farm track, very close to the main road through Glandford. Sadly, this was almost certainly our Leo.

We feel extremely privileged that this beautiful bird chose to spend such a long time with us. For many of our visitors, Leo was their first ever Long-eared Owl. For others, Leo offered the best view they’d ever had of this usually very elusive species.
 The money that was raised in Leo’s name will really help towards the protection of another beautiful and rare bird.

Thanks Leo, you were a star.