Sunday, 25 October 2009

Blast From The Past - Birds of Prey

Continuing my "Blast From The Past" theme i've now reached Birds of Prey.

The Buzzards were photographed at Gigrin farm in Wales during a Theale Area Bird Conservation Group trip to Wales. They show a good variation of plumage colour between the pale and dark birds of this species, they are becoming much more widespread across the UK and hence a more common sighting, perhaps due to the Red Kite introduction and of course less persecution.

The Red Kite with the wing tag was tagged in 1999 in the Chilterns and the photo taken in June 2006 from our garden at the time. Tags usually only stay on the bird for several years so this one had done pretty well as it had lasted close to 7 years. They have done incredibly well in the Hambleden Valley and are a common daily sight.

The Sparrowhawk photos were taken in September 2005 at Mill End near Hambleden Lock. We had just started to get a good selection of birds in to the garden which included a pair of Marsh Tits, a rapidly increasing number of House Sparrows that were exceptionally pleasing to see and a good number of Starlings that were bringing their young to the feeders, this in turn is obviously going to alert any predators and especially the Sparrowhawk.

It wasn't long before we had a number of sightings of male Sparrowhawks attempting to take birds as they fed on our bird feeders and often with us sat in the garden at the time, this continued on and off through the summer with the odd Blue or Great Tit succumbing to the attacks but on the whole the Sparrowhawks were largely unsuccessful. In August after returning from Rutland I noticed a strange looking Sparrow in the garden and soon realised it was in fact a Tree Sparrow which in these parts is like gold dust, it hung around for quite a while and on one occasion I witnessed it evade a Sparrowhawk attack by diving in to some ivy growing up the wall by the feeders, it doesn't know how close it came to ending up as hawk food....or perhaps it does!

It was then in September that a female Sparrowhawk flew in and caught a Starling, I was soon alerted to the shrieking of the Starling and jumped up to look out the window and find out what was going on. The Sparrowhawk was 'mantling' it's prey to protect it from theft and just staring at it, I expected this to last seconds before the hawk would carry it off but it stayed in the garden giving me time to get my camera and take about 50 photos from the bedroom window. During all this was happening a number of people were walking past but still the Sparrowhawk remained in the garden with the starling still alive, I have to explain we lived next to a public footpath at the Hambleden Marina which was in constant use from walkers and tourists visiting the River Thames throughout the summer so there were plenty of people walking right past it. The Starling then put up a bit of a fight trying to jab the hawk with it's beak and spreading it's wings, the Sparrowhawk simply stood upright so not to come under contact and peered down at the starling. It remained in the gardens for a few more minutes and then took flight towards Hambleden Marina with the Starling, still alive but hanging from it's talons. It's incredible to see something as dramatic as this unfolded in front of your eyes but I did feel for the Starling, let's face it nobody likes to see something like that happen to our garden birds but you have to accept that it is part of mother nature.

Common Buzzard-Gigrin, Wales.

Tagged in 1999, photo taken in June 2006.
Red Kite-Skirmett, Bucks.

Sparrowhawk with Starling-Mill End, Bucks. Taken from an upstairs window.
Peregrine Falcon-Theale, Berks.
Kestrel-Skirmett, Bucks.

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