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by Peter Napthine
ON JANUARY 31, 1998, AFTER a morning's birding at Benacre Broad, Suffolk, I arrived home just after twelve o'clock, with only 15 Shorelark, Eremophila alpestris, and a male Hen Harrier, Circus cyaneus, worthy of note.
Sitting in the lounge, (waiting for lunch), I was summoned to the kitchen by an excited call from my wife. The cause of her excitement was a female Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, on the path at the end of the garden. In typical pose, it was mantling a Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, which was held on its back, shrieking loudly, and pecking vigorously at the hawk’s legs. After about twenty seconds, the Sparrowhawk took flight but dropped the starling after only a couple of feet. No attempt was made to recapture the Starling, which after half a minute or so spent recovering under a berberis bush flew off apparently unharmed.
All this in a very small suburban garden, in the centre of Lowestoft!
Grasshopper Warbler 'reeling'
by Peter Ransome
A TRIP TO SPRATT'S WATER, Carlton Marshes, during the balmy summer's evening of July 6, 1997 produced an interesting sighting of Locustella behaviour.
Already, a productive evening with good views of Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, and Barn Owl, Tyto alba, I had reached the start of the boardwalk when I noticed a Grasshopper Warbler, L. naevia, singing quietly in short bursts near the path.
A closer look revealed that the bird had a moth wedged between its mandibles. The bill was barely half-open as it sang, almost half-heartedly, in short 3 to 5 second spurts of its characteristic ‘reeling’ song. It barely turned its head as it sang. After observing repeat performances for some 10 minutes, it promptly gulped down the unfortunate Lepidopteran. Henceforth, it reverted to its more familiar 'full-blooded' song with its head swivelling at almost 180 degrees, like an oscillating fan.
Swallow Feeding Flight
by Peter Ransome
ON SEPTEMBER 19, 1997, I was birding around Lowestoft, North Denes, when I noticed three Swallows, Hirundo rustica, flying close behind a dog walker. An adult bird, with an uncharacteristic white pattern on its mantle, was accompanied by two immature's, which had shorter tails and less clear-cut plumage. They appeared to be hawking for insects close to where the walker had disturbed the grass.
A little later I walked across the same area of grass as the dog walker. The accompanying trio of Swallows proceeded to repeat the behaviour, hunting for insects only a few feet behind me.
I can only assume that the adult Swallow had learnt the beneficial effect of regular walkers disturbing insects from the grass providing a feed. Clearly a case of, for once, human disturbance benefiting a species.