Friday, October 7, 2011

Blustery Winds and the Struggle for Life.....

Autumn back on track: upper crown of the Great Ash blown clean of leaves; woodlands sweet with mould and rot; bees and flies swarming over musky yellow-green Ivy florets in the lane.

Birds stay low in blustery winds, hard to hear calls over rushing of air. Just a few Pied Wagtails and small party of Linnets, but liquid calls down the wind showed Curlew moving seaward low and fast from the estuary, two thin Godwits in the vanguard. A flurry of white Black Headed Gulls lifted from the upper estuary, moving out into farmland, bright against dark wooded hillside behind.

Scanning the flat estuary salting later, a curious black-and-white ball occasionally lifted and turned amongst rusty sedge: Peregrine over recent kill, standing in a low creek, only fierce black-hooded, white collared head showing above the salting.

Later, sheltering hard against the yacht club doors from the wind, a dark, long-winged, gangling bird appeared in the estuary mouth, rising, gliding and slipping into wind, gradually pushed back over lagoon and wide estuary sands, eventually dropping out of sight into fields behind the rocky dyke wall. Immediately, Crows moved in, sensing vulnerability. The young Gannet rose into sight once more, struggling briefly against the wind, before dropping back into shelter.

Driving later to the spot, the field was clear of Crows, only a heavy dark grey form low against the sheltering bank. On approach, the head was invisible, laid along the back, entirely covered with dark wings. Trying to feed it fish, it became clear why the Crows had departed: long dark wings half spread over the ground braced the bird for lightning fast, stabbing lunges aimed at the eyes; even when held behind the grey head, the hooked tip of a seven-inch bill proved dagger-sharp, drawing blood from hands and wrists.

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