Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 14/05/2012

It’s all about timing

Flowers, originally uploaded by

Typical, just as I’d left the house this morning I received a text message (of course, Dear Reader, I was stationary when I read the message… no, really I was!) that I’d forgotten to put the cat out (which is odd as we don’t have a cat!).. no, that wasn’t the message; the message, from my wife, was that I’d just missed a rather gruesome spectacle, a Sparrowhawk had taken a young bird on our freshly cut lawn (must have been the time I spent on it yesterday*). Needless to say I was too far away to turn around, even if I had you could put money on it that the bird would have flow as soon as it say the camouflaged 600mm appear at the window (really… what IS the point of the camouflage that I’ve spent good money on if it doesn’t work everywhere… even in our dining room!).

I know it’s not nice, the predator/prey scenario but it’s all part of the circle of life (no… don’t do it… stop thinking of any Elton John songs.. oh, you weren’t? I bet you are now 😉 ) – without one, we wouldn’t have the other – plus there would be an incredible imbalance if the numbers of each were to decline or increase greatly. There is one train of thought amongst the birding world that an increase in the number of Sparrowhawks is responsible for the decrease in the number of small birds throughout the British Isles. I’m not wholly convinced by this theory, nature is very good at finding a working level unless factors (usually the human one) beyond their control are changed, such as loss of habitat or the introduction of a competitive species (ie the Brown Snake I mentioned a couple of days ago), none of which would explain the increase in numbers of the Sparrowhawk. These raptors are not the only ones who have seen their numbers increase over the last 30+ years, I’ve mentioned before how Peregrine falcon numbers have increased in the UK, thanks in part to Government intervention over the use of certain pesticides. Certain pesticides were finding their way into the food chain which had a disastrous effect on Peregrine numbers as it resulted in the eggshells of the birds being too thin so that they were easily broken by the birds themselves when brooding. With these chemicals removed from the food chain, the birds eggs are now once again properly formed – i could be that this has had factor too, who knows. The complexity of the natural world means that one small change could have further ramifications we could never imagine – and don’t get me started on Palm Oil!

* I knew you would be pleased to know that last fact, after yesterday’s blog.


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