Hundreds of twitchers flocked to see a ‘real-life Hedwig’ make an “extremely rare” appearance – thousands of miles away from its usual feeding ground.
The snowy owl – made famous as Harry Potter’s pet – usually lives in the far north around the Arctic circle and rarely venture south of northern Scotland.
But on Sunday, the female bird of prey was spotted at Snettisham nature park in West Norfolk.
The appearance attracted a gathering of bird watchers who rushed to the reserve to catch a glimpse of the snowy owl.
Graham Minster, from Swindon, Wiltshire, left home at 4am to drive the 170 miles to see the bird.
He said: “I never imagined I would see a snowy owl in person. She is a beautiful bird and worth every minute it took me to get here.”
Les Bunyan tweeted about the sighting and said: “One of the best birding days, pleased loads of people got to see the awesome Snowy Owl #rspbSnettisham at such close quarters,with everyone behaving and respecting the bird, it eventually sat on a fence post!”
@BoatBirder added: “An absolutely stunning weekends birding on the Norfolk coast! Mainly taken up by this fabulous Snowy Owl!!
“Never did I ever imagine that I’d get this close to one on home soil ~ Had to drag the wife away from #RSPBSnettisham in the end, we were both just in awe!”
A spokesman for the RSPB, which confirmed the sighting, said: “These strikingly white birds are more commonly found in the high Arctic tundra rather than the coastal regions of Britain.
“During winter months they can migrate southwards looking for food sources and it’s possible that this bird came from Scandinavia or even as far away as Canada with the recent snap of cold weather.”
Unlike other species of owl, snowy owls are active during daylight hours and may be seen gliding low over ground looking for small mammals such as voles or event rabbits.
The birds are content to sit still for long periods of time, either on a low perch or boulder, making them ideal for wildlife fans.
The news of the snowy owl’s arrival was broadcast through the birding community and within hours, twitchers arrived from all over Norfolk and beyond, the RSPB said.
A member of staff at the Snettisham nature reserve said: “They [the snowy owl] are extremely rare visitors here.”