Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tawny Owls & Goshawk

Still very warm for late November, winds generally from the south; only one frost to date despite occasional clear nights. Tawny Owls call from woods all around the house after dark, at least four separate long wavering hoots distinguishable in half-light the other morning.

Saturday morning is bright and breezy on the Maes behind the dunes: rabbit-grazed turf; scattered tussocks of Needle-Rush and Gorse clumps still in deep yellow flower. Though not yet requiring glasses, very often nowadays calls of finches do not result in the location of matching dark specks in bouncing flight overhead. Similarly, when gulls rise from mud and salting in a raucous snowy cloud mingled with ringing calls of dun Curlews and white panelled Redshank, the Peregrine is not always spotted.

Scanning wide waters and sands of the estuary lagoon with dunes and airfield beyond, a similar commotion arises from behind, inland: thin-winged Black Headed Gulls rise in a cloud from behind the low mounded drumlin and its grey stone farmhouse, bright white against the dark wooded escarpment, this time joined by black Crows and Rooks rather than estuary waders. Above cawing and croaking and harsh gull cries, an unusual dry bleating brings attention to a raptor working hard to gain height, hard-pressed by a determined, smaller black Crow: broad-winged for Peregrine; grey-brown and longer tailed than chocolate brown Buzzards.

As the female Goshawk sets course toward the northern end of the wooded scarp, more and more birds arise from fields and woods below, including many Wood Pigeons; staple Goshawk food, normally too busy feeding on the acorn crop to waste energy in flight.

No doubt evolved as an immediate visual signal for flight between the flock, the two wing bars, bright white over soft grey, must make a clear target for pursuing Goshawks and Peregrines.

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