What more magnificent sight is there in birdwatching than a majestic bird of prey cruising high up on the thermals in a clear blue sky. These are fascinating creatures. The fascination being that you rarely see that many and opportunities to study them up close are very few and far between. However, not everyone shares my delight in seeing a raptor. There are those who would seek to destroy the adults and nests because they have the audacity to eat their precious grouse, pheasants or racing pigeons. This is despite these birds of prey being fully protected by law.
Enjoy some shots of these wonderful birds taken in recent weeks.
The Red Kite (Milvus milvus) has had a roller coaster existence in the UK. In the 16th century these birds were so common they fed on waste in the centre of London. Then they were, by an act of parliament, hunted to the point of extinction. By the 1960’s there was probably no more than a dozen pairs left in hidden valleys in mid-Wales. Now fully protected it was decided to re-introduce the Kite to the British countryside. Eggs were obtained from Scandinavia, hatched, reared and released in the Chilterns. I well remember an early morning journey along the M40 near High Wycombe many years ago. Kites were everywhere alongside the motorway even flying into peoples gardens! The first releases were such a success that other areas were chosen. These birds have spread and recolonised much of Britain. Though still rare, I often see them in Norfolk, with their 5 foot (165cm) wingspan and deeply forked russet coloured tail which they twist and turn, they brighten up any day out.
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo). Thirty years ago to see a Buzzard in Norfolk was an unusual sight. They have always been common in the West Country and Scotland. Now they have spread and established and almost any suitable patch of woodland has a pair. Smaller than the Kite at 4 feet (125cm) these birds are also mostly scavengers feeding on dead or sick animals and birds.
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus). This is another bird of prey which, like the Red Kite, was driven to extinction by the end of the 19th century through persecution and habitat loss. For me this is a special bird for it re-established itself here in the Norfolk Broads. What a thrill it was when out on the river to see a Marsh Harrier gliding low over the reed beds, wings held up in it’s distinctive V. Now thankfully they breed in very good numbers. Same size as a Buzzard but slimmer wings and a long narrow tail.
Finally a common and familiar bird, the Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Often seen perched on posts or hovering over road side verges. This Falcon is one species that has benefited from man’s desire for more and more motorways, as the short grass verges are a perfect habitat for it’s rodent prey. A small bird with a wingspan of 2.5 feet (80cm).
Hope you enjoyed these. At last we are seeing sense and giving these wonderful birds protection, they are once more gracing our skies.
Happy holidays everyone! From me, Mrs H and the Lemming!