For years people have been telling me there are tawny owls around Sidcup. For years I have thanked them for the information before walking away convinced they were mistaken.

Common birds like collared doves or woodpigeons can sound similar to the hoots of tawny owls.

Recently one resident of Burnt Oak Lane spotted the binoculars around my neck and stopped me to ask, at the required distance, what I had seen. I rattled off my bird tally before he said something startling. He said he hears owls from his open bedroom window as well as seeing them fly around a school playing field.

The householder obviously had a knowledge of birds and this report deserved to be taken seriously. My interest faded slightly when he added that he hears them around midnight when I’m usually fast asleep.

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Three days after this encounter I was out walking when I heard an unusual low bird call from a copse between Burnt Oak Lane and my home. Peering into the bushes I could see the pale belly of a bird standing upright on a branch otherwise concealed by foliage

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A jay burst from a nearby tree and flew at the half hidden bird. As it abandoned cover to chase off the mobbing jay it revealed itself as a tawny owl! Luckily it returned to the same branch giving me time to study it before I carefully backed away making a mental note never again to doubt verbal bird reports.

Tawnies are nocturnal creatures but this was no night owl. It stared at me with huge, saucer-like eyes until I retreated to avoid disturbing the surprise visitor at the end of my road.

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Two days later a vandal with a motor mower sounding like Concorde cut grass within feet of the owl perch. I haven’t seen it since.

Also worth mentioning here is the buzzard that rolled over and flew upside down while being harried by a crow over my house. Buzzards do so to present their sharp talons towards mobbing rivals like the crow. I had never witnessed this before but the phenomenon has been brilliantly caught by Tony Dunstan in his photograph.