“A flying barn door”

I think I’m correct in quoting Iolo Williams, on BBC Springwatch, as calling this particular bird “a flying barn door” – any ideas what species that reference might be about…?

It’s an interesting juxtaposition that yesterday I saw our smallest bird, the goldcrest (held jointly with firecrest) and today I saw one of our largest birds, which I think is only beaten by the common crane: And they were both within a few hundred yards of each other!

The bird in question is a white-tailed eagle. These magnificent birds – the largest breeding bird of prey in the UK – became extinct here in the early 20th century due to shooting. However they were successfully re-introduced to Mull, and there have now been further projects in Ireland and on the Isle of Wight too. Immature birds wander widely, and it’s one from the Isle of Wight re-introduction scheme that has been popping over, on and off, to north Norfolk.

So today, from a small layby on the coast road just west of Holkham, I caught up with this particular immature eagle. It showed well, on top of a tree, in the lovely late afternoon sunlight, but too far away for a decent photograph. I stayed there for about an hour, hoping it would also fly, and while waiting saw a good number of birds, including pink-footed, Egyptian and white-fronted geese (this latter new for 2023); red kites, buzzard, kestrel and marsh harrier, two barn owls, no less than three great egrets, and several other species.

immature white-tailed eagle, photographed at quite a distance over Holkham Park in 2022

The eagle eventually, just before sunset, decided to take flight – a pretty magnificent sight which I watched until it was lost over the pinewoods. Not sure about a barn door….but it’s a pretty big bird!

Above is a size comparison with a common buzzard. They can have a wingspan of up to about 1.4m, with red kites a bit larger – their wingspan is between about 1.7 and 1.9m. The white-tailed eagle can have a wingspan of up to 2.4m!

New species for January 15th:
Birds: white-fronted goose, white-tailed eagle

Birds = 86
Moths = 0
Wildflowers = 10