Thursday, 30 December 2010

The sound approach

The weather has been terrific around here recently, low temperatures and lots of snow: perfect for Winter Solstice and Christmas time. My office is in Salts Mill, and has was very quiet before the Christmas break – mainly because most workers there don’t have the same luxury I have of walking to work, so they’ve been stuck in their cars or homes. I think the mill looks good in any weather, but it’s been particularly presentable recently - here’s a photo I took with my phone as I arrived last week:

Salts Mill, Saltaire

The day after I took the above photo, while at the very same spot, I heard an almighty commotion coming from the tree on the left in the picture. There were at least 15 assorted birds yammering away with their loudest alarm calls at the evergreen bush. The motley crew included Carrion Crow, Magpie, Starling, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Great Tit, and Blue Tit, and probably others. 

As every birder knows when they hear that kind of rumpus: there must be a top-line predator around, causing consternation further down the found food chain. At first I though there was probably a Tawny Owl in there somewhere, but I realised it would have struggled to fit in that tree. It soon became clear that the object of all the angst was a male Sparrowhawk, who flew to a conifer five metres away. That didn’t stop all the ballyhoo of course – it just moved with it.

I managed to get a short recording of the birds’ clattering. Notice how the commotion dies away rapidly as the Sparrowhawk flies on to its next perch: 
I followed the cacophony as the birds moved from tree to tree, around the allotments, then across the car park, around the toilet block, beside the social club, over to the railway station …until the Sparrowhawk eventually decided to leave town altogether, flying off high over the canal. It’s not easy being a predator.

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