Environment / Bird watchers head out west after rare owl is found in Tumblin garden

THE discovery of a Tengmalm’s owl in a Shetland garden on Tuesday is setting the local and national bird watchers community into overdrive.

Named after a Swedish naturalist, there have only ever been four records of the small owl in Shetland, the last being more than 100 years ago in 1912 in Unst.

The bird was discovered sitting on a tree just outside Jackie and Erik Moar’s bedroom window in Tumblin, near Bixter.

They put a photo of the bird on Facebook and within a short while local wildlife photographer Dennis and John Coutts, as well as local wildlife guide Hugh Harrop knew that this was something much rarer than the common long eared owls seen in Shetland trees.

The Tengmalm’s owl in Tumblin. The previous sighting of this rare bird in Shetland was back in 1912. Photo: John Coutts

Harrop, of Shetland Wildlife, described the Tengmalm’s owl as an “incredibly rare bird in Britain”. Only 20 records, most in Orkney, exist of the bird in the UK since 1901.

He said the news about this sighting has got out nationally on the various birders’ networks and the first twitchers from south are due to arrive in the isles this afternoon.

“Oh it is a big one as far as rarities go, absolutely! It’s a tiny little owl, a beautiful little thing,” he said.

“The bird could have been in the area for a while, who knows. Whether it roosts in the same tree tomorrow again, is another question. There is quite dense tree cover there, so it could well be that it is never be seen again.”

John Coutts added: “The Tengmalm’s Owl is a very rare vagrant from Northern Europe and Siberia and will be a new bird for all Shetland listers.”

Thanks to Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife for the video!