Now is a great time to look and listen for birds of prey

At this time of year it is easy to spot birds of prey as they display and call high over their breeding territories; something unheard of forty years ago but now commonplace.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:00 am
Crows and hawk over Leeshal Wood taken by Ian Rotherham.

In recent days I have seen a number of examples of one or more common buzzards being mobbed by carrion crows and jackdaws.

In one case, high over old Norton church a carrion crow persisted in dive-bombing a buzzard for at least five minutes, and several times it must have passed within a few inches of the predator.

Then, maybe exhausted by its exertions, the crow dropped down to join its mate in a large tree behind Norton House.

I am guessing that the crows are nest-building there. In North Derbyshire, Simon Doncaster reported a raven being harassed by crows. Buzzards were also displaying over Whitwell Wood.

Then, in Leeshall Wood in the Gleadless Valley, a sparrowhawk was getting the treatment from a pair of carrion crows and the pursuit continued until all three birds passed out of sight and beyond the trees.

Carrion crows in particular do not like birds of prey or even grey herons for instance, in their patch. So once they have become territorial in the breeding season, they will pursue raptors, herons, and ravens incessantly, until either the predator moves on or the displaying crows tire of the game.

The various predators will also interactive with each other and the smaller birds of prey can be victims of the larger or more aggressive species. There is genuine need to keep a weather eye open and if necessary to defend your patch.

Peregrine falcons for example will predate kestrels, sparrowhawks, and even buzzards. Much to the dismay of birdwatchers, on a moorland site in the north they even made a habit of taking hen harriers.

This all means that now is a great time both to look and listen for birds of prey jostling and competing for nesting places and territories; displays and mobbing make them obvious. In nearby Graves Park I had a splendid view of a female kestrel.