ON THE WILD SIDE with Professor Ian Rotherham – Like a ghostly shadow….

For some reason we seemed to lose part of this week’s Sheffield star column, so for anyone interested  – here is the unexpurgated version. The Graves Park appeal is time-limited – so please pledge your donations now! Many thanks.      Ian

ON THE WILD SIDE with Professor Ian Rotherham
Like a ghostly shadow….

hazel-catkins-by-ian-rotherham-a-sign-of-spring-on-its-way

Wild nature is unpredictable and that is a part of the magic. Out near Curbar in Derbyshire, we got back from a walk just as night was falling and the late afternoon was fading away. As I stood by the car whilst changing my shoes, I caught a glimpse of movement and looked up. In the half-light a male sparrowhawk passed just a couple of metres away from me at about head-height along a footpath running through the edge of the wood. The hawk paused for a second or two as it landed on a low horizontal branch. Then, like a silent, ghostly apparition in dropped down and disappeared almost effortlessly back into the wood. It was gone with no evidence of it ever being there and nothing to record such a brief encounter. Later on, a tawny owl passed low over the darkened road just lit pale by the car headlights as it flew into a small wood close by.

On the theme of sparrowhawks, Miles Watchman, one of my postgraduate students, came back to me about a sighting in Sheffield’s Meersbrook. He reported firstly that ‘An acquaintance spotted a parakeet near Meersbrook the other day’; and then followed this with ‘I didn’t mention before, but the parakeet my friend spotted was caught by a bird of prey, an unconfirmed species, with a white breast’. My conclusion was that this was a female sparrowhawk; though predation of a parakeet by one is new to me. I wonder if anyone reading this has ever witnessed such a thing. Exotic birds like parrots, budgerigars in particular, parakeets, and their relatives can get picked on by other birds when they escape captivity. I recall years ago doing an ecological survey of the colliery tip site at Orgreave – like a wasteland moonscape – when a bright blue budgie flew past. It was very surreal and rather memorable, though I held out little hope of the bird surviving. Albino birds can salon suffer persecution from their peers and predation from raptors, but then nature is ‘red in tooth and claw’.

On a happier note, the bird song is coming on a treat with great tits and bleu tits active, and chaffinches starting up too. Song thrushes are joining noisily with blackbirds in an evening chorus. The flowers are coming through as well with snowdrops aplenty, crocuses in flower, and daffodils, not yet in bloom, but pushing through. Where I live in Norton in south Sheffield, we are quite high and seem to be weeks behind places to the south-east and the south-west. Of course there is yet time to experience some real winter.

Finally for this week, check out my blog to support an appeal (which closes soon) for the Graves Park Animal Farm.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, is contactable on ianonthewildside@ukeconet.org ; follow ‘Ian’s Walk on the Wildside’ blog, http://www.ukeconet.org for more information.

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