Raptors -home and away

Flight.  If there is one thing above anything else that makes birds so amazing to me it has to be flight.  Looking into the eye of a blackbird as it watches you fill a bird bath you can feel an element of attachment.  The moment she leaves the tree to get to the water the attachment is broken.  In that instant she has done something I can never do.

And if that’s amazing what can be more spectacular than seeing migration in action. The most visible form is that of large birds of prey gathering to cross the narrowest stretches of sea when moving north and south.  Gone are the limited number of species and the odd glimpse of a Honey Buzzard through the trees if your lucky.  They move in thousands across the central flyway of the Mediterranean.  We hope to catch a few of them at least as we travel around Sicily, but will want to keep tabs on what others see.

In preparation I have treated myself to this wonderful book.  However I fear I have become more confused and fully expect to look up at my first rufous buzzard or ring tailed harrier and still not identify it as it circles away.  This is a must have book.  I wanted it when it was first published and should not have waited so long.  I doubt that all this information is sinking in though.

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They are spectacular visible and easy to shoot.  The activities of illegal hunting was what has driven some of the most determined conservationists in Italy, Malta and elsewhere.  We point our finger at Jonny Foreigner and tell him not to rip birds from the sky in illegal hunting.

The problem being when you point a finger, three point back at you.  And here’s the rub.  There are lots of reasons why big birds that need hot weather to circle for prey (vultures) or for the prey to be available in large numbers (Short-toed eagles).  Even then we still do not look after what we have got.  In 2016 Red Kites shot and persecuted in North Yorkshire, buzzards illegally killed and hen harrier nesting attempts in England down to 3 from last years high of 13 (when there should be several hundred in England).

To add to this all Natural England has issued a licence for 10 buzzards to be shot so we can protect Pheasant rearing.  What madness is this?  Malta must be looking at us and saying we are glad Britain is leaving the EU look at what they do to their raptors.

Next weekend sees the 4th Hen Harrier Day celebrations.  Go along support the day understand that upland driven grouse shooting subsidised with public money are taking away amazing birds from the skies of England.  Don’t be conned into thinking Europeans are to blame for the mess we are in.  When it comes to birds of prey we can do that all by ourselves