Rooster 2-0 Predators
One of the birds missing from my garden list this quarter is the sparrow hawk. It used to swoop across fairly regularly during the late summer, sometimes successful in snatching a small bird from the feeders, sometimes not. In this age of TV Nature documentaries with big cats pouncing on antelopes and orcas seizing young seals, a pandering to the public’s taste for blood, I guess, it’s an important thing to remember about predators – their attacks fail more often than they succeed. Antelopes can run fast and have stamina, small birds are skilled in dodging and hiding, and, sometimes the selected victims fight back. Think of how robins, wrens and blackbirds harry roosting tawny owls in Middleton Woods, or how terns on the Farne Islands dive bomb visiting birders.
We encountered an excellent example of this on our recent visit to my stepson in Wales. Last time we visited his smallholding, a gang of assorted chickens and bantams roamed free around the land. This time there were only a handsome white rooster and a small brown hen, wandering side by side and keeping up a constant crooning and clucking conversation. A peaceful scene! But their back-story was more dramatic, and bloodier. All their companions had been taken, one by one, by the local goshawk. Goshawks are woodland raptors adapted to pursue quarry at speed, dodging between trees, in and out of shadow. They are rare in England but thrive in the forests of Snowdonia. A large group of domesticated fowl is like a fast food outlet to them, and no doubt they had young in the nest. You can’t blame them for taking advantage of Chris’s poor chickens. So – then there were two.
Not long before our visit the hawk had succeeded in grabbing the brown hen, and had actually lifted her into the air when her furious mate arrived in a flurry of noise and swirling tail feathers. He immediately launched himself at the abductor, sharp-taloned feet first. The hawk dropped the hen who ran off unhurt. Rooster: 1 predator: 0. On another earlier occasion he effected a similar rescue, this time from a polecat. These fierce hunters are wild cousins of the domestic ferret and about the same size. This time the attack was in a ditch and followed the same pattern. The hen emerged unscathed, rooster withdrew with blood on his spurs and the hungry polecat slunk off along the ditch. Rooster: 2, predators:
0. What a hero!