Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Indoor Meetings - What's that raptor? by Keith Offord
An evening to remember. This was an absolute gem of a talk illustrated with beautiful and at times stunning photographs. The identification of birds of prey can be difficult because, as Keith said, sightings may be brief and distant, calls are infrequent, they are often seen only as silhouettes and overall they are not common. Furthermore, because there is so much variation in plumage, and plumage can look so different at odd angles and in varying lights, the use of colour as an aid to identification should be used with great caution. Some important factors to consider when trying to identify these birds, we were told, include the following: place of sighting (in the west of the country, particularly in forested areas, a bird that at first glance might appear to be a buzzard could be a goshawk); habitat (if it is moorland, it may be a merlin); tail shape (a deeply forked tail suggests a red kite); position (a raptor on a post might be a kestrel or a buzzard but is unlikely to be a sparrowhawk); and whether or not the bird is a colonial breeder (like lesser kestrels), a fast flier with long pointed wings (like a hobby), or very slim-bodied (like a Montagu's harrier). Soaring (like a buzzard), hovering (like a kestrel), or stooping (like a peregrine) are also significant markers.
In his interesting and informative overview of our resident and some of the other European raptors, from our smallest falcon (the merlin) to the majestic golden eagle and including the graceful lammergeier, Keith pointed out the field marks which are specific to each individual species. Never rely on the one single picture often found in bird books, he cautioned. Much better to concentrate on shape and demeanour - the "jizz" of the bird - and flight pattern. During Keith's presentation I was reminded of the words of wisdom in Collins Bird Guide which is generally considered to be one of the best on the market: "Do not hope for or pretend reliable identification of all birds of prey in the field - ever". In view of the difficulties in identifying members of this magnificent group of birds with any confidence, I thought this advice well worth bearing in mind.
Saturday, 23 October 2010
Feed the Birds event
Saturday the 23rd of October saw Simon, Mick, Hannah and myself running the Feed the Birds event at Long Acre garden centre again. This is one of our favourite venues. We always get a warm and friendly welcome from the management and staff. We managed 3 new memberships for the RSPB and raised £115 for RSPB Funds. Thanks go to Simon for organising the Event, my fellow workers for their help and to the management and staff of Long Acres.