Death and the Raptors

An errand in Bristol left me time to stroll over Brandon Hill. What a few minutes that turned into. First, a singing chiffchaff – in the centre of a big city, maybe not that unusual – then a buzzard mobbed by gulls and crows, and finally another raptor, also being mobbed.

A peregrine this time, presumably one of the Avon Gorge birds. This should be easy to confirm. It was missing a primary on its right wing – P7, I think. It didn’t look like natural moult but perhaps I’m just super-paranoid after my Malta experience. Once you know that bastards with guns will do anything, you see evidence of it everywhere.

Still on a grisly note, my ensuing journey up the M5 brought me a sight I’m amazed I’ve never seen. A female pheasant launched out into the side of a car ahead of me.

Instant death. No flapping or jerking, unlike a wood pigeon I saw years ago after a much slower collision. The pheasant must have broken her neck instantly. I’m amazed because I see so many carcases and drive so much that I must surely have experienced this moment of impact. Not so. Perhaps it doesn’t really happen that often.

After all that, it was almost an anti-climax to add little plover and little owl to my year list at – wait. Little owl? Anti-climax? I haven’t seen one for a year and a half and that was at Upton Warren too. For Upton is where I finished Saturday’s birding. I didn’t see just one owl, but two perched on the same tree stump. To cap it all, staying overnight at my aunt’s in Kidderminster, I awoke at one stage to the sound of… a little owl somewhere in the neighbourhood.

It wasn’t even supposed to be a birding day but a Nature in Art day at the rather excellent museum just north of Gloucester. Plenty of birdy stuff in there and here’s some unlikely sounding trivia gleaned from it. Gulls first appeared in London in… When? Is that even true? Haven’t they always been there? Go on: guess a date or prove me wrong.

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