Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Evening Hunter

A full days birding, with no rain today. This morning, Jack and I had a visit to our BTO tetrad, as part of the winter atlas survey. It seemed as if most of the small birds had seen us coming and disappeared as there were fewer birds around than we had expected. The most notable exception were Common Gulls, these seem to have arrived in large numbers over the last week or so. Then, as I settled down to have a cup of tea, Peter Wells phoned to tell me to get out in the garden as a Red Kite was heading my way. Within a few seconds I heard a bit of a hubbub of Crows and there it was being mobbed by a gang of corvids. I had time to get Pam out into the garden to see it, but forgot to get my camera and record the event until it was too late, as by then it was flying directly into the sun. This was the 84th species identified from the garden, but there are loads missing that should turn up some time. Thank you Peter for the quick call!

Driving along the Ancient Highway, across Worth Marshes the afternoon I watched this Black-headed Gull following a Lapwing. It reminded me of a paper I read a while ago "Kleptoparasitic attacks by Black-headed Gulls on Lapwings. As far as I remember the situation was quite complex, with a Gull "looking after" a Lapwing, i.e. preventing other gulls bothering it, in return for half of its food. A bit like getting married. I think that Lapwings even learn to feed at night to avoid the Gulls attentions.

At the Restharrow Scrape hide there was a Common Snipe feeding close by. The sun was beginning to set, and I think the evening sun really sets off the Snipes subtle plumage.

The first field guide I had was about 1955, and it was Roger Tory Peterson's "Field Guide tot he Birds of Britain and Europe". Inside the front cover were two Pages of Silhouettes of birds perched and inside the back cover, birds flying. He didn't have this species, but he did have a Little relative. Well since I got the exposure all wrong into the setting sun I thought it would make a good quiz question.

Although you can see Short-eared Owls on the wing in full day-light they are more active in the evening. By the time this bird was flying around in range it was getting quite dark.

It sat on a post about 50 yards away, but I'm sure it heard me open the car window. First it looked left.
The it stared straight at me, with those piercing yellow eyes.

And then it looked right.

Before flying over the rough ground hunting. It did drop into the grass a couple of times, but I didn't see it come up with any prey. There favourite food is small mammals, mostly Field Voles in the UK. The winter population here is supplemented by birds from Northern Europe, and in years when there are few Lemmings there can be large influxes into the UK.

1 comment:

Benjamin Young said...

Wow, amazing stuff! I'm going to go and see if I can see it later. I just love Short-eared Owls!