Saturday, 10 August 2013

Bad manners at the breakfast table


I looked out of the back window of our compact but adorable city apartment this morning to see this very unusual sight - one of the Peregrine Falcons sitting on the opposite wall, looking very disgruntled and ducking every time a gull swooped low over his head in an attempt to scare him off. This one is obviously known to the authorities, as you can tell by the blue ring on his left leg.

It took a while for me to understand why this Falcon was sitting there in such a vulnerable, low position, then I saw why - he was watching another gull eating his hard-earned breakfast (photo below), and wondering if he would ever be able to reclaim it without having his eyes pecked out.

The Peregrine's technique for catching very fast pigeons (pigeons are the fastest creatures on the flat, reaching speeds of well over 115 mph) is to fly above the victim and, using their super-sharp eyesight (which is what they try to protect by not approaching big-beaked gulls unless they really have to), dive down onto their prey at speeds of up to and over 200 mph, making them the fastest creatures on the planet.

They slam into the pigeon with their massive talons, then continue the dive whilst selecting a nice, flat, hard piece of ground against which they smack the pigeon, finishing it off before they take the carcass away to a different spot, where they eat it.

The flat roof which this Peregrine chose to impact his breakfast against, happened to be the territory of that pair of gulls who let their chicks wander into the scorching July sunshine and die in an act of neglect (if neglect could be an act) which would put them in prison if they were of our species.

After about 5 minutes, Perry gave up and flapped away to pursue something else from the menu. Their menu is pretty varied, and often includes quite rare - and slower - songbirds in town and these gulls are too big for them, but at least that feral pigeon did not go to waste.


29 comments:

  1. I really like that line 'if neglect could be an act'.

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    1. That was an afterthought, after I had thought it.

      (p.s. - I seem to have fixed my mail now, so you should have 2 copies of my reply, from what appears to be 2 different people. Oh well, you know who we both are)

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    2. Oh, you got 5 copies. Sorry, but the first 3 attempts were stored in my outbox until the machine decided to work.

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  2. Yesterday a gull glided into a graceful landing in the middle of my driving lane. From the opposite direction, straight at me. I yelled "Don't do it!" as I braked a little, hoping the train behind would simultaneously slam on their brakes to stop behind a fool stopping for no reason they could tell if it came to that. The gull landed on the road, looked down and began nibbling the morsel. I drove straight over it. It everyone behind me did the same, it survived.

    Worst of all, or not, I think it was attracted by a shiny spot of hot tar.

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    1. When you, "It survived", do you mean that everyone straddled it with their wheels as it stood perfectly still, or is it recuperating in the gull hospital?

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    2. And if it were out of the gene pool I would not be sorry. I absolutely did not want to hit it anywhere. My car is less than a week old.

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    3. What make of car do you have?

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    4. A Dodge Caliber -red-
      Excellent for transporting teenagers.

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    5. So I would not have to search around my head for the name I immediately teamed it up with ex-. Red was a nice extra.

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    6. A colourful name for an unwitting drug-dealer. Ever thought about Moonshine-running?

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  3. I used to hate the gulls in Brighton, now I rather miss them.

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  4. A sparrow hawk swooped into our courtyard this afternoon. He was so quick I couldn't see if he caught any dinner but he certainly dispersed the noisy gaggle of sparrows squabbling in the hazelnut tree. The silence was marvellous.

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    1. Sparrow Hawks hug the hedges at about 6 inches above the foliage. They... now I cannot think of the word...

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    2. What's the word when something just skims the tree-tops in flight?

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  5. A damn fine bird. But, more importantly, about the wedding:

    HI remains one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen;
    You looked very well yourself, though I sometimes sensed those pesky newlyweds were trying to steal the show;
    The bridesmaids were particularly noteworthy in their sweetly elegant simplicity;
    I think I spotted a Gainsborough that was stolen from the East Wing of my house in October 1998.

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    1. Sorry about the Gainsborough - I will have it returned asap..

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  6. I quite admire Gulls for their brazen cheek and opportunism, even if I have been party to a chip stealing moment, where a nearby tourist felt it necessary to shout "You've been framed" at me, with two thumbs raised cheerily....

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    1. Brazen cheeks... ah, it reminds me of seaside holidays when I was an adolescent kid,

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  7. Tom, concerning the Youtube-video: of course Youtube is universal - and I get it, BUT: Law in Germany prohibits to show any video when the GEMA hadn't got the permission of showing a song. Data-protection, hahaha (bitter laugh). I can take a photograph, if you need it to believe me - we only see a black board with a red box with a face on it saying: Sorry. .
    This having been said: birds of prey. Merciless, but hungry. And the softer birds do it too: they throw down snails on hard pavement and eat the 'content'. Life is hard.

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    1. Sorry Britta, but I am now going to bed - merciless and hungry. Wish you were here.

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    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tITreccwwMs ?

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    3. I heard one second of it, then accidentally turned it off. Sorry, but I cannot be bothered to turn it on again.

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  8. A sparrow hawk flashes through our garden most days - we have a mass of bird tables and he knows it., Sometimes he is lucky, sometimes he is not. But then he has to eat.

    Your bird is magnificent - and he knows it by the way he is sitting there.

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    1. When they walk, it is a really ungainly, shambling, hopping sort of walk - so different to the flying.

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  9. Managed to find the vidoe of the wedding - absolutely lovely occasion!

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