Wednesday 11 November 2015

Northern Goshawk downs Grey Heron

I noticed a straight-necked heron-ish bird flying distantly across the fields, hardly a rare sight but something that I can never resist the urge to check. As there had been a couple of Hooded Cranes around earlier in the week I knee-jerked the bins on it. Of course it was a Grey Heron... they always are. But something was obviously up. I didn't notice the Goshawk at first as the Heron's behaviour already had my total attention, a plummeting descent of sudden twists and turns amidst a snow globe storm of crows, but it didn't take the Goshawk long to make its self a leading player in the unfolding tableau.

I watched it  lose height as quickly as possible and I wondered why it didn't try to out-fly the hawk and it was only later I realised this was its best chance of escape. Once on the ground where it could brace itself and bring its powerful neck and formidable bill into play would it have the means to fend off the attacker. It probably crash landed judging by the speed it was coming down though I missed this because of the terrain and it took me two or three minutes to drive to the spot. It was already upended by the time I arrived and I suspect it wasn't able to make the controlled landing it needed, its fate was sealed even though it took about 10 more minutes for the Goshawk to finish it off.

There were about 80-100 Carrion Crows in attendance, a Peregrine swooped at it, a Black Kite hovered and dipped towards it but nothing could budge it. I'm used to seeing crows trying to dispossess large gulls of a fish, two or three birds have no chance but a group will circle around taking turns to dash in from behind and lunge at the gull until they wear it down and it will finally give up trying to protect its booty. Watching these Carrion Crows sitting back respectfully brought home just how powerful a predator the Goshawk is.

The Heron kicked and flapped intermittently but the Hawk was careful to have talons clamped around the neck and head keeping it effectively disabled.

Incidentally the Peregrine I mentioned was a real trier, I'd already seen it go after Carrion Crow, Great Cormorant and Black Kite as well as the more usual ducks. Later I saw it going after the local celebrity Red-footed Booby!

I took hundreds of shots of this unusual (to see) birding drama and below is just a very small selection.

No comments:

Post a Comment