Wildlife Column: Another predator back in abundance

Prof Ian Rotherham
Prof Ian Rotherham

A great thing with wildlife is you just never know what to expect or where it might turn up.

So I was amazed to see a Barn Owl quartering over ‘waste land’ (former football pitch) off Jordanthorpe Parkway in south Sheffield.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Readers might recall that I had one displaying over countryside just south of my garden a couple of years back. Following that, I had records sent from two households within a couple of miles from me, both with nesting Barn Owls in (albeit large) gardens.

So it seems they are back and doing well. We even saw one quartering over fields near the Grouse Inn at the Peak District’s Froggatt last summer.

A day after my most recent encounter, I was in my garden at about sunset and a Tawny Owl flew up and passed just over my head!

As I write the column today, a female Sparrowhawk dropped into the garden and down onto the patio where my House Sparrows feed. I think it flew off unrewarded but as it paused on top of the ornamental archway it looked every inch a serious predator – something about the eyes I think.

Another predator back in abundance is the Cormorant and these can be seen along many local rivers on both larger ponds and reservoirs too. Surprisingly for a water-bird, the Cormorant does not have waterproof wings and cannot oil itself.

It therefore sits out on an open perch to allow its wings to dry giving a somewhat demonic appearance and Cormorants are regarded as birds of ill-omen. In 1860, one perched for a day (until shot by the caretaker) on the roof of Boston Church, Lincolnshire.

Seen as a warning of bad news, fears were confirmed when the ship ‘Lady Elgin’ sank with 300 passengers including MP for Boston, Mr Ingram. However, it is great to see them back though local anglers may be less keen. At Linacre Reservoir Country Park, two adult Cormorants showed well steaming up and down the lake. I am sure we can spare a few fish in exchange for the pleasure of the view. Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.