Tag Archives: bird-of-prey

April Adventures

Spring has been a little slow to take off – I only saw my first Swallow yesterday, and we only had our first reasonably warm and sunny weather over the last three days. There might not be swallows but the sunny weather has brought out some very impressive birds, most notably Buzzards (Buteo buteo). These birds are best described as either very large hawks or small eagles and should not be confused with vultures which are a very different kind of bird. Here are two photos I got of one bird recently:

Buzzards like bright, sunny days because they can use the sun to hide their approach. Their favourite prey are rabbits, especially in spring when there are abundant young rabbits around which lack the experience of older rabbits and can be easily caught. Buzzards will also eat rats and will scavenge roadkill. The famous cry of the hawk in American western movies is the same as the cry of the Buzzard.

Because it’s April I would like to remind you to keep an eye out for Ireland’s rarest known species of solitary bee, the Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva). These bees make small volcano-like burrows on lawns and the female is stunningly beautiful. They have no sting and although you might see a number of bees in one area they are not working together as a colony but living single lives. Here is a photo of a female, and the yellow on her hind legs is not the bees colour but, in fact, pollen collected on special hairs:

The male is much less handsome and harder to tell apart from the males of other mining bee species, of which there are a few in Ireland. And here is a photo of a female in her mine. They often like to watch from the entrance and will duck their heads in if they think they’ve been spotted.

The female is about the size of a small worker bumblebee, but is large as mining bees go. There is a very similar bee species which is more common and not quite so red in colour, the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) which is more robust-looking, and I here is a photo of that species so you can tell them apart:

Common Carder Bee feeding on vinca.

If you see a Tawny Mining Bee and especially if you find nests the National Biodiversity Data Centre will want to hear from you, and they can be contacted at this website which allows you to submit records, coordinates and photographs of anything and everything in the natural world, but rare creatures especially:

www.biodiversityireland.ie

 

Birthpangs of Spring

The winter of 2013/14 has certainly been the winter of storms, but the heavy bouts of rain (and those of sleet and snow too) have somehow kick-started spring growth. As the days grow longer there’s more and more to see. The snowdrops are now blooming absolutely everywhere.

Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.
Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.

The crocuses are already coming into a peak of blooming, although there are not quite so many pollinating insects about right now. Here are some very nice ones in my garden.

Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.
Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.

At this time of year it’s a good idea to not only look at what’s going on at ground level, but also up into the air in the sky about. A few days ago we had a really sunny and cold day, and I had an opportunity to observe two Buzzards (Buteo buteo) circling overhead.

A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings.
A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings. Not a great shot, but you can see what it is.

The European Buzzard is technically a large hawk or small eagle and should not be confused with vultures, which are often referred to in America as ‘Buzzards’. Our Buzzard is actually a close relative of the American Red-shouldered Hawk. They are beautiful birds and at this time of the year will land in newly ploughed fields to eat earthworms and grubs exposed by the soil. Of course, they also eat rodents, other birds and can take young rabbits and hares.