African harrier-hawk in Cape Town, South Africa


This video from South Africa says about itself:

An African Harrier-Hawk hunting upside down (Gymnogene)

The African Harrier-Hawk, Harrier Hawk, or Gymnogene is a bird of prey. It is about 60-66 cm in length, and is related to the harriers. It breeds in most of Africa south of the Sahara.

From the Sunday Argus in South Africa this week:

Pics: Harrier-hawk’s urban takeaway

A large bird of prey swooped through Long Street, startling pedestrians and motorists alike

Cape Town – Was it a small plane? Was it Superman? No, actually, this time it was a bird in the form of an African Harrier-hawk that swooped around the heart of Cape Town last week, startling motorists and pedestrians and scaring the living daylights out of the pigeons.

And in the case of what appeared to be a young fledgling pigeon, this was literally true, because it was caught and devoured by the raptor that was formally known (and still is to many bird-lovers) as a Gymnogene.

The graceful but highly manoeuvrable raptor was photographed with its prey by Weekend Argus photographer Leon Muller at the intersection of Long and Waterkant streets.

Pedestrians and shoppers also whipped out their cellphones to record the unusual event while anxious Hartlaub’s Gulls squawked raucously as they tried in vain to drive the intruder away. The Harrier-hawk simply ignored them as it polished off its meal before taking off again.

A few days later it was seen alighting on the Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square, sending the local flocks of pigeons wheeling in terrified flight.

This raptor species has the ability to climb, using its wings, claws and double-jointed knees, which allows it to raid nests, particularly those of cavity-nesters such as barbets. It also feeds on alien species, like feral pigeons and house sparrows.

Professor Peter Ryan, director of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, confirmed the identity of the raptor.

“They are increasing in the Peninsula and are partial to squirrels, among other things,” he said.

That has to be good news for nature-lovers concerned at what appears to be the rapid population explosion of the alien grey squirrel that, although predominantly vegetarian, also feeds on the eggs and chicks of indigenous Cape birds.

Grey squirrels are native to North America and were among several exotic species introduced to the Cape by arch-colonialist Cecil John Rhodes.

john.yeld@inl.co.za

John Yeld, Sunday Argus

World’s oldest buzzard dies in England


This video from Britain is called BTO Bird ID – Summer Buzzards: Common Buzzard and Honey-buzzard.

From Birdguides in Britain:

The oldest of its kind

The oldest known Buzzard in the wild has clocked out at 28 years, 1 month and 11 days, breaking the previous record by nearly three years. This record-breaking bird features in the latest report from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Each year, the BTO publishes a report revealing the latest information to emerge from the network of bird ringers, who collectively catch and ring wild birds under licence for the benefit of conservation. During 2013, these specially trained volunteers fitted just under a million rings and recaptured 240,000 birds that had been ringed previously. The information they collect informs conservation policy, revealing some of the factors that influence bird populations, their movements and their longevity.

Buzzard ‘GK41814′ was ringed as a nestling at Sunbiggin Tarn, Orton, Cumbria on 16th June 1985 and found dead 12km to the northeast of there on 27th July 2013. The typical lifespan of a Buzzard in the wild is 12 years, so GK41814 is a remarkable bird. Rob Robinson of the BTO commented: “Ringing provides the only way to get this sort of survival information, which is invaluable for understanding how our bird populations change.”

Other record-breaking birds in the 2013 online ringing report include a 32-year-old Herring Gull that was seen alive in Clydach, Glamorgan and identified from the colour rings that it was wearing, an 11-year-old Great Spotted Woodpecker that was found predated at a golf club in Norwich, Norfolk, and a Cumbrian Marsh Tit that has reached the ripe old age of 10 years, 4 months and 25 days and still counting. The typical lifespan of a Marsh Tit in the wild is only two years.

It not just about old birds, though; recaptures of two nestlings ringed in 2012 that were caught again in 2013 highlight differences in behaviour for different species. Reed Warbler ‘Y512371′ was hatched in June 2012 on the Constant Effort ringing Site (CES) at Longham Lakes in Dorset, migrated to Africa and back, and started to breed one year later at the site he was born, being caught on 24th July 2013.

However, Pied Flycatcher ‘L699165′ also hatched in June 2012 (at Lake Vyrnwy in Powys) was caught again in June 2013, breeding on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite in Cumbria, 213km (132 miles) to the north. By monitoring where young birds end up breeding we can start to understand how distribution ranges change. As climates change, for example, we expect to see more individuals heading north to breed.

950,000 birds were ringed by 2,800 trained volunteers in 2013, providing data that helps the BTO piece together complete life histories for many of the birds that are seen in Britain.

Jacquie Clark, Head of the British and Irish Ringing Scheme, explained: “Everyone can help: if you find a bird with a ring on tell us the details at www.ring.ac.

BTO

Monday 23rd June 2014

Peregrine falcons in Britain


This video is called BBC Wildlife on Two, Peregrine Falcon, part 1.

And here is part 2.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Peregrine falcon: Meet the fastest bird on earth

Friday 23rd May 2014

PETER FROST has two new neighbours in his village churchyard

Early summer is a good time for a stroll around the churchyard in our village. It’s a miniature nature reserve and usually a great place for chilling out and slowing down in the sunshine.

Things have changed this month. The fastest creature in the entire natural world has invaded the village and made its home on the church tower.

Our speedy immigrant is the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), and it really is the fastest mover in the entire animal kingdom, with an almost unbelievable officially timed flying speed of 242 miles per hour.

Just for comparison the fastest land animal is the Cheetah which has a recorded speed of between 60 and 75 mph (96–120 km/h) in short bursts.

The peregrine is a large, handsome and powerful bird of prey.

It has long, broad, pointed wings and quite a short tail. When at rest it shows its blue-grey plumage.

Its head has a distinctive black cap and a black moustache on its otherwise white face. It sports a finely spotted waistcoat.

On the wing this falcon is fast and agile, darting down on prey birds in the air or on the ground. It is in these killer dives, called stoops, that it reaches its incredible speeds.

It can take surprisingly large birds, crow or pigeon size. Indeed in the US it is known as the duck hawk because it kills mainly sizeable water fowl.

Over the years peregrines have suffered illegal killing from gamekeepers and shooting landowners. They have been a target for egg collectors and illegal falconers but tougher legal protection and less pesticides in their food chain have seen numbers recover considerably from an all time low in the 1960s.

Peregrine falcons have been moving south and changing their nesting habits too.

They previously made their homes in natural cliffs and rocky outcrops. Now they have learnt to adopt the man made cliffs, nesting on buildings like Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern and, even, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Empire State Building.

Church and cathedral towers all over the country are once again becoming home for peregrine falcons. Just this week a pair of peregrines hatched a clutch of chicks on the 404-foot tower of Britain’s tallest church, Salisbury Cathedral. They were the first Salisbury peregrine chicks since 1953.

Favourite food of the peregrine is the pigeon. Indeed much of the persecution of this falcon over the years has come from the world of pigeon fanciers, understandably angry at the falcon snacking on their champion racing birds.

Watching our local falcon killing and eating a pigeon, scattering a flurry of feathers all around, reminded me of another aspect of this wildlife story that might be of particular interest to readers of the Morning Star.

During wartime the army officially waged war on peregrines, trying to stamp them out completely because they disrupted military carrier pigeon posts.

The woman credited with developing the top secret carrier pigeon service used by our undercover agents in occupied Europe was the wife of the local Tory MP whose Northamptonshire constituency covered my village.

She was Mary Manningham-Buller, Viscountess Dilhorne, and her specially trained carrier pigeons were parachuted in tiny wicker baskets all over France and Germany. Brave anti-Nazi agents used them to send home crucial messages.

One of these pigeons returned to Bletchley Park, the famous Enigma code-breaking station, with the first ever reports of Hitler’s top secret V2 rocket project strapped to its leg.

The heroic bird avoided both enemy fire and marauding falcons to deliver its message, winning a Dickin medal, the animal VC, in the act.

Amazingly, espionage became the Manningham-Buller’s family business.

Mary’s daughter Eliza became Britain’s chief spook as head of British intelligence (MI5) between 2002 and 2007.

In that role she plotted against and spied on many left-wing and progressive organisations, causes and campaigns. These included the Communist Party and the Morning Star.

Personally I wish she’d just have kept pigeons like her mother, but I guess the peregrine falcon in the church tower might have different ideas.

New York City red-tailed hawk news


This video from the USA about New York City red-tailed hawks says about itself:

Egg in the nest? Rosie and Bobby switching nest duty – March 15th, 2014

15 mrt. 2014

It appears that there is now, at the very least, one egg in the Washington Square Park Hawk nest.

Bobby and Rosie are now regularly taking turns sitting in their nest. A fellow Hawk-watcher informed me that she saw the nest-switching behavior quite clearly yesterday after I had already left the park for the day.

I took this footage of Bobby and Rosie switching nest duty this morning. Also included in the video is footage of Rosie eating and perching in various spots.

You can hear Rosie calling out starting at the 34 second mark.

I cut the audio in a couple of the clips in order to not distract the viewer from having to hear park noise that was occurring during the action.

From Roger_Paw blog in the USA, about nesting red-tailed hawks in Washington Square Park, New York City:

At least one of Bobby and Rosie’s eggs have hatched – April 18th, 2014

The first hatching was reported by NYU to have happened yesterday morning (April 17th). The egg hatched three days after it was ‘expected’ to which is so in keeping with Rosie and Bobby’s broods.

Their eggs typically hatch two to three days later than the 28-35 days ornithologists have said Red-tailed Hawks eggs usually do. There are many conditions that affect when the eggs hatch (latitude, for example).

Fledging is said to usually occur 42 – 46 days after hatching but interestingly, all of Rosie and Bobby’s offspring in the past fledged at least two days later than ‘expected’.

If all goes well, this first 2014 hatchling should fledge between May 29th – June 2nd.

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Goshawk flight, slow motion video


This video says about itself:

Hawk Attacks Balloon in Super Slow Motion – Slo Mo – Earth Unplugged

5 March 2014

Using incredible high speed camera work the team reveal how a Goshawk attacks its prey during mid flight.

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Dutch peregrine falcon nest webcam


This video is called BBC Wildlife on Two: Peregrine Falcon, part 1.

And this video is the sequel.

After the other webcams of birds’ nests in the Netherlands, the peregrine falcon webcam is working as well.

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White storks and buzzard, video


This is a video about two white storks and a buzzard in the Netherlands.

Gerrie van der Meulen made the video.

Up to 10 buzzards could be trapped and shot to protect young pheasants if Natural England (the UK Government’s nature conservation agency) approves a licence application, the RSPB has learnt: here.

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Montagu’s harrier migration, new research


This video is called Montagu’s Harrier – Britain’s Rarest Raptor.

Results of ten years of research into Montagu’s harrier migration were published recently.

Providing harriers with satellite transmitters proved there are three main ways for the birds to cross the Mediterranean sea on their autumn migration from Europe to Africa: through Spain, through Italy and through Greece (a newly discovered flyway, which only east European birds use).

Montagu’s harriers from the Netherlands use only the two western flyways.

Montagu's harriers flyways to Africa

In Africa, they winter in areas where they can feed on locusts.

When, in spring, the harriers fly back north, Morocco is an important stop over area for them. That is also a new discovery.

The new research was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The importance of northwest African stopover sites for Dutch, German and Danish Montagu’s Harriers: here.

Farmers and birdwatchers are being urged to keep a lookout for Montagu’s harriers – the rarest breeding bird of prey in the UK, which nests almost entirely on arable farmland: here.

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Sparrowhawk, woodpecker and redwing


This video from England says about itself:

Magpie harasses a sparrowhawk as it tries to eat its (Berkshire pigeon) lunch.

Today, again to the cemetery. Sunny weather. Warmer than usually in December.

In a holly bush near the entrance, blackbirds and a redwing feeding on berries.

A jay.

A bit further, a great spotted woodpecker in a tree,

Greenfinch and great tit sounds.

A blue tit in a tree.

Then, half-hidden between branches of a coniferous tree, a special bird: a sparrowhawk.

Snowy owl vs. peregrine falcon


This video from the USA says about itself:

10 Dec 2013

Remarkable footage of two Peregrine Falcons harrying Snowy Owls on a beach in New Jersey, December 2013. Filmed and narrated by Tom Johnson.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes:

Snowy Owl vs. Peregrine Falcons

Snowy Owls are flooding into the Lower 48 this winter. But what happens when one raptor takes up residence on another raptor’s turf? Cornell alum Tom Johnson (2010) captured this remarkable footage of Peregrine Falcons harrying Snowy Owls on a New Jersey beach. The birds didn’t injure each other, but the aggravation of the falcons and the catlike intensity of the owls are palpable. … (And see more of Tom’s work via Flickr and Vimeo.)

Find Your Snowy: This winter could be your best-ever chance to see “Harry Potter‘s owl.” Our eBird team breaks down causes and patterns of this year’s irruption—and this live sightings map can help you locate them. If you do find an owl, please remember to keep a respectful distance to avoid disturbing these rare visitors.

Snowy owl on ship: here.

For many birdwatchers the Peregrine is one of those great ‘start of the year birds’, an added bonus to a New Year outing to coastal marshes or inland wetlands, where this large and powerful falcon may be seen to strike at waders and smaller wildfowl. For others the Peregrine is a bird of the open uplands, breeding where there are suitable rocky outcrops, or a master of our western sea cliffs, where Puffin and Guillemot feature alongside Feral Pigeon as prey. Regardless of the manner in which the Peregrine enters your birdwatching realm, there is no doubting its place as a totemic species: here.

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