The other day someone asked me where they could go to see birds of prey in the wild? I paused for a moment and had a flash of memories whizz through my mind of some of the amazing spectacles I have seen involving wild birds of prey. Am I lucky? maybe, or maybe I just get out there and so that is exactly what I told this person.
It really is that simple, get your boots (or wellies at the moment) on and get into the outdoors! I’m now of the mindset that I never miss an opportunity to go for a walk because you never know what you will find or see. Where I am lucky is my patch is a large dairy farm with woodland and pasture and a nice variety of wildlife and limited public intrusion, so many places now are packed with people trying to get a break from the rat race. You need to find your own patch and then get to know it really well because that’s the fun part.
From my time and passion spent out in the field I have got to know birds of prey very well, I would go as far to say some days I am so in tune with my surroundings and the birds I get this sixth sense right before I see the bird. This is only from time in the field though and it will come to anyone who immerses themselves and reconnects with the natural world. Two examples relating to birds of prey that stick in my mind I’ll describe below.
The first one I was down on the farm where we have a woodland that runs roughly a mile along a lane its no more than 500 metres wide with a central path from one end to the other. I monitor Common buzzards, Tawny owl and Sparrowhawk within the wood and it was with the latter species which I had this brief encounter. Walking through the wood I often notice how the varied bird life activity ebbs and flows, I can walk for 500yds and hear or see little then its almost like I walk into a concert or supermarket of activity with birds moving and communicating throughout the undergrowth and trees above. It was during one of these moments as I continued walking taking in the surrounding activity when the mood suddenly changed like someone had flicked a switch. It went from British birds greatest hits to complete silence and I knew straight away bird of prey then from in front of me like a missile a stunning mature female Sparrowhawk cruised straight between the trees over my head and melted into the undergrowth not once beating a wing, she meant business and the other birds knew it! No sooner had she left the scene the record began to play again and normal activity resumed, but for me that 20 seconds of my life I’ll remember forever.
As you get to know your patch and the species that interest you then you will begin to unravel and enter their world, once this starts to happen you’ll never want to go back. The next experience is a great example of this with an incredible species, the Goshawk. I have been fortunate to enjoy many hours in the field monitoring this bird with some truly knowledgeable people, but the best lessons are the ones you teach yourself in my opinion. Whilst looking for a new nest site I had yomped and clambered through bracken and brambles when out the corner of my eye I spotted movement. I was probably 5o metres from the edge of the wood so I could see out into the surrounding farm land and there against the sky flitting in and out of view was the silhouette of a bird, full of power and purpose. I crouched down and watched it and as it moved behind the trees it reminded me of a children’s flicker book it was 100% a Goshawk and then it was gone. That was not it though as no sooner had I stood up did I hear the Kek-Kek-Kekking of the female from the nest, her mate must have just brought in a kill. I located the nest because of that experience and that year if memory serves me right they produced two healthy chicks.
Now of course that was lucky I was in the right place at the right time for both of those experiences but only because I put myself out there! I also only believe I spotted that Goshawk because of the time spent in the field reconnecting and recognising the changes as they happen, being in tune with the wildlife. You can do this to, this weekend put your boots on, find a quite corner of the countryside near your home and go for a walk and hopefully you’ll see something to last a lifetime!
Yours with the birds,