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Mike C.

I know exactly how you feel. We live in the centre of Southampton (that's Southampton, England, "Gateway to Empire"...) which is itself in the centre of an urban sprawl along England's overcrowded South coast. Just this year two pairs of buzzards have taken to circling above our street, causing the ever-alert local squadron of magpies and crows to scramble daily ("Bandits at 12 o'clock!"). Buzzards are not Bald Eagles, but they lift my spirits, and I love to watch the aristocratic way they shrug off the magpies' assaults.

I'nm choosing to see this as a hopeful sign ("Nature returns to the cities") rather than the opposite (" opportunist buzzards get into position early for rich pickings when civilisation goes belly up")...

Colin Jago

I stood outside (and got badly bitten by midges) yesterday watching aerial combat between a buzzard and a heron. Herons do not turn fast, but they sure can make a lot of noise.

And for Mike C: buzzards are very difficult to distinguish from Golden Eagles if you don't know the height, so you can always squint a bit and pretend it is a bigger bird rather higher.

Mike C.

Thanks for the tip, Colin! Reminds me of the old joke about collecting elephants in a jamjar with tweezers (by looking through the wrong end of a telescope)...

Talking of relative size, etc., there are several falconry places in Hampshire that display and fly raptors from around the world, and last year an Andean Condor chose not to return to base for some days. One can only imagine the panic in the local hedgrows... ("Is it very close or is it very big?? Either way, I'm not going out there...")

Doug Plummer

This is a much nicer thread than the PC bashing going on over at the last post.

Birds so ground me to place. I travelled to Ireland a lot in the 90's, and nothing evokes that land more to me than the overhead, gushing song of the Skylark, or the melancholy twitter of a European Robin.

Mike C.

I didn't know you don't have skylarks in the US. Perhaps Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" is even more quintessentially "British" music than I'd realised... So evocative, if you've ever lain in a cornfield in high summer watching the singing dot high above gradually vanish into the blue.

Yet the Skylark is now endangered in England, it's thought because of industrial farming practices. Mind, strange things have been happening to our birds, such as the complete collapse of the House Sparrow and Starling populations. Who'd ever have thought these would become scarce? (the American Passenger Pigeon spring to mind...) That's why I'm treating the recent advent of buzzards as a hopeful sign!

Doug Plummer

Maybe the buzzards are feeding on all those House Sparrow carcasses.

Don't you have an issue with starving buzzards and the EU directive for farmers to stop putting out carcasses for them? Might that be why you have an influx?

The Skylarks in question were in Co. Clare in Ireland, mostly, though there is an established population up in Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Mike C.

Ah, no, those would be vultures in Spain and Southern Europe... Nobody in Northern Europe leaves carcasses out as carrion (yuk). We turn them into meat pies. In Britain, a "buzzard" (buteo buteo) is a medium-sized raptor, generally eating live prey. They're coming into town because they're breeding well, and looking for territory -- farmers are more enlightened these days and don't "shoot on sight".

Colin Jago

Buzzards like eating beetles and worms. If the conditions are right they'll graze on grassland just like sheep. It is an odd sight. Also slightly unnerving to spot a bird on somebody's lawn and for it to slowly resolve into a buzzard. Blimey, big sparrows they have in these parts.....

We've had a buzzard take a rodent out of our garden - doing the full talon and swoop thing. Timed perfectly for late afternoon drinks as I seem to recall. Who needs the nature channel.

Doug Plummer

Of course, my mistake. In North America a buzzard is the colloquialism for vulture.

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