Sunday, 12 June 2011

My village's birds of prey

My village is close to the Black sea and it gets its fair share of birds of prey flying through during the passage seasons. Lesser spotted eagle is my most common sighting. In winter the area is inundated with common buzzard from further north.  But what of the summer?

Within the strict confines of the village, I have seen four birds of prey well within one kilometre of my house. They all breed close to me too although I'm not going to disclose where.

Can you guess the four?  

They are a varied collection: kestrel, common buzzard, short toed eagle and goshawk.  Of course if I wander further afield I can see more. For example there are sparrowhawk  at Rogachevo which is only 9 kilometres away. However these four are my local summer birds of prey.

Yesterday I was privileged to get my best views yet of one of the short toed eagle.

short toed eagle within 300 metres of my house yesterday

I was returning from a late afternoon birding walk down the valley towards Albena and resting under a tree. This was my stroke of luck. Probably because of the tree, he didn't see me before I saw him - perhaps for the first time. So he literally hung around looking for snakes in what is now very long grass. How does he do it?

second view of short toed eagle yesterday

Why do all birds of prey here have what looks like shot marks on their wings?  I pity the birds that fly on passage through Lebanon and Egypt. Why do people want to shoot these birds? You can't eat them.

third look at short toed eagle

Since he hung around for so long, I used my camera as a video recorder for the first time ever! I don't think I'll make it with a career as a film camera man but it was a start.

clip of short toed eagle near my village

I don't think the effort is too bad. I may make some more video for later blogs. It was good fun! Next time I'll try to cut out the heavy breathing. Can you hear the corn bunting in the background?

common buzzard last week

I can't guarantee seeing the eagle every time I go out down the valley but it is at least 25% once you know where to look. 

There is about the same likelihood of seeing a common buzzard if you go out in the afternoon towards a different edge of the village.

underneath a local common buzzard

Once again we have a bird of prey lacking feathers in what looks an unnatural way. 

common buzzard locally last week

Moments after I took the photos of the common buzzard, I witnessed a brutal robbery. 

I saw a female goshawk steal a magpie. It flew to one tree when I lost sight of it. The next thing I knew it had sneaked into the row of trees/bushes on the other aside of the country lane. A big scream from a remaining magpie as an other was snatched from within the bush and carted away in the talons of a goshawk at a rate of knots. All too quick for my camera.  I have never seen anything like it!

Since seeing this I have done a bit of research. Goshawks are well known apparently for predating the crow family. They don't take a corvid (crow family member) in the open unless it is obviously alone. The corvids will usually mob a goshawk if there are a number of them anyway. I suppose they know attack is the best form of defence.

Google images only has one picture in its whole library of a goshawk capturing a magpie and that's a trained goshawk too. So my picture would have been really rare. There are more pictures of magpies mobbing a goshawk (in the open) and even one of a group of magpies stealing a goshawk's food!

The fourth member of our local bird of prey group is kestrel. I see them in yet a different nook of the village. They seem quite shy and I haven't seen much action from them. I guess their more glamorous cousins have been grabbing my attention.

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