FENLAND WILDLIFE WATCH

Safeguarding the future of our wildife

                                          Birds of prey in the Fens

 

Western Marsh Harrier

The western Marsh Harrier is about the  same size as a Buzzard. Has slimmer wings and a longer tail. The tail on the  male is a pale grey as are the upper wings, also has dark wing tips. The female is darker with a creme head and shoulders. Flight is slow,with long glides, the wings are held in the shape of a V. Habitat is usually reed beds and wetlands and on occasion they can be seen over farmland. Diet small birds, Rodents and amphibians.

                                                                                             

 Merlin

 

The Merlin is the smallest bird of prey found in europe. The wings are short and broad with a square tail. Flight is uasually low around a metre high and uses the ambush approach to capture it's prey. On occasion the Merlin can be seen hovering briefly or hanging in the wind. The Merlin seldom grows no larger than a Thrush. The male is smaller then the female and is a bluish grey with reddish buff underside whereas the female is a dark brown on top with a strongly patterned underside. Diet mainly small birds. Habitat is moorland, heaths and coastal marshes

     

 

                                                           Sparrow Hawk

In general the Sparrow Hawk will be seen flying at low level and on occasion will soar.Recognised by their short round wings and long tail. Over the years Sparrow Hawks have had a rough time due to poisoning, agricultural chemicals and from the sporting fraturinty.Due to recently introduced ledgislation ther numbers are on the increase.The female is larger than the male, the female having a grey/brown back whereas the male has bluish back.The Sparrow Hawk will often take small birds from the garden bird table.

 

Red Kite

The Red Kite has been seen in Fens around south lincolnshire but this is a rare sighting as they are mainly found in mid and north Wales.A large bird wth long wings and a wide forked tail.The Red Kite will eat earth worms and on occasion will take small mammals,also readily feeds on carrion. These birds have been under threat from poisening by farmers who lace dead carcasses with DDT.

Common Kestrel

The Kestel is the most common bird of prey in the Fens and is often seen hovering near the edge of roads over ditches and fields searching for food. The Kesrel mainly feeds on small mammals. They normaly breed in old buildings and trees. The Kestrel is another one of Fen birds that have suffered at the hands of man but fortunatly they have survived and numbers are increasing.The male can be identified by having a light red back with darker  spots,a grey tail and head. The female is recognisible with a spotted chestnut plumage and a barred tail.

Common Buzzard

 

The Common Buzzard breeds in woodlands, usually on the fringes, but favours hunting over open land. It eats mainly small mammals, and will come to carrion. A great opportunist, it adapts well to a varied diet of pheasant, rabbit, other small mammals to medium mammals, snakes and lizards, and can often be seen walking over recently ploughed fields looking for worms and insects. The birds have incredible strength and are therefore able to pick up food of all weights.

Buzzards do not normally form flocks, but several may be seen together on migration or in good habitat. The Victorian writer on Dartmoor, William Crossing, noted he had on occasions seen flocks of 15 or more at some places. Though a rare occurrence, as many as 20 buzzards can be spotted in one field area, approximately 30 metres apart, so cannot be classed as a flock in the general sense, consisting of birds without a mate or territory. They are fiercely territorial, and, though rare, fights do break out if one strays onto another pair's territory, but dominant displays of aggression will normally see off the interloper. Pairs mate for life. To attract a mate (or impress his existing mate) the male performs a ritual aerial display before the beginning of spring. This spectacular display is known as 'the roller coaster'. He will rise high up in the sky, to turn and plummet downward, in a spiral, twisting and turning as he comes down. He then rises immediately upward to repeat the exercise.

The call is a plaintive peea-ay, similar to a cat's meow.

                        

                                      

                                                                       OSPREY

 

The Osprey is 0.9–2.1 kg (2.0–4.6 lb) in weight and 50–66 cm (20–26 in) in length with a 127–180 cm (50–71 in) wingspan. The subspecies are fairly close in size, with the nominate subspecies averaging 1.53 kg (3.4 lb), P. h. carolinensis averaging 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) and P. h. cristatus averaging 1.25 kg (2.8 lb). The wing chord measures 38 to 52 cm (15 to 20 in), the tail measures 16.5 to 24 cm (6.5 to 9.4 in) and the tarsus is 5.2–6.6 cm (2.0–2.6 in).The upperparts are a deep, glossy brown, while the breast is white and sometimes streaked with brown, and the underparts are pure white. The head is white with a dark mask across the eyes, reaching to the sides of the neck.The irises of the eyes are golden to brown, and the transparent nictitating membrane is pale blue. The bill is black, with a blue cere, and the feet are white with black talons.A short tail and long, narrow wings with four long, finger-like feathers, and a shorter fifth, give it a very distinctive appearance.The sexes appear fairly similar, but the adult male can be distinguished from the female by its slimmer body and narrower wings. The breast band of the male is also weaker than that of the female, or is non-existent, and the underwing coverts of the male are more uniformly pale. It is straightforward to determine the sex in a breeding pair, but harder with individual birds.The juvenile Osprey may be identified by buff fringes to the plumage of the upperparts, a buff tone to the underparts, and streaked feathers on the head. During spring, barring on the underwings and flight feathers is a better indicator of a young bird, due to wear on the upperparts.In flight, the Osprey has arched wings and drooping "hands", giving it a gull-like appearance. The call is a series of sharp whistles, described as cheep, cheep or yewk, yewk. If disturbed by activity near the nest, the call is a frenzied cheereek!

                               

                                                                 Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short squarish tail. Generally a medium-sized owl, there is considerable size variation across the subspecies. The Barn Owl measures about 25–50 cm (9.8–20 in) in overall length, with a wingspan of some 75–110 cm (30–43 in). Adult body mass is also variable, ranging from 187 to 800 g (6.6 to 28 oz), with the owls closer to the tropics being generally smaller. Tail shape is a way of distinguishing the Barn Owl from true owls when seen in flight, as are the wavering motions and the open dangling feathered legs. The light face with its heart shape and the black eyes give the flying bird an odd and startling appearance, like a flat mask with oversized oblique black eyeslits, the ridge of feathers above the bill somewhat resembling a nose.

Its head and upper body typically vary between a light brown and a light colored and dark grey (especially on the forehead and back) feathers in most subspecies. Some are purer, richer brown instead, and all have fine black-and-white speckles except on the remiges and rectrices, which are light brown with darker bands. The heart-shaped face is usually bright white, but in some subspecies it is browner. The underparts (including the tarsometatarsus feathers) vary from white to reddish buff among the subspecies, and are either mostly unpatterned or bear a varying amount of tiny blackish-brown speckles. It was found that at least in the continental European populations, females with more spotting are healthier on average. This does not hold true for European males by contrast, where the spotting varies according to subspecies. The bill varies from pale horn to dark buff, corresponding to the general plumage hue. The iris is blackish brown. The toes, as the bill, vary in color; their color ranges from pinkish to dark pinkish-grey. The talons are black.

On average, within any one population males tend to be less spotted on the underside than females. The latter are also larger, as is common for owls. A strong female T. alba of a large subspecies may weigh over 550 g (19.4 oz), while males are typically about 10% lighter. Nestlings are covered in white down all over, but the heart-shaped facial disk is visible soon after hatching.

Contrary to popular belief, it does not hoot (such calls are made by typical owls, like the Tawny Owl or other Strix). It instead produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range. Males in courtship give a shrill twitter. It can hiss like a snake to scare away intruders, and when captured or cornered, it throws itself on its back and flails with sharp-taloned feet, making for an effective defense. Also given in such situations is a rasp and a clicking snap, produced by the bill or possibly the tongue. It is most recognizable by its "mask-like" face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

                                                                    

               

                                                                           

                                                                

                          

                                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

     

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