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The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more


Thu 27th January 2011 17:57 by Graham Smith
Nature Red in Tooth & Claw - almost
Blue House Farm EWT Reserve, January 26th : 2000 Lapwing rose as one from Round Marsh and departed for the surrounding fields. An adult female Peregrine appeared. A single Lapwing (the only one remaining) took flight and was immediately attacked by the falcon. It dodged a dozen or more short stoops by the Pergrine, swerving to left or right an instant before impact, the two birds weaving an erratic pattern across the sky. A second Peregrine arrived on the scene, this time an adult male. He and his mate attacked the Lapwing in tandem; an unfair contest. He won the prize but the weight of the Lapwing dragged him down, predator and prey spiralling slowly earthwards. As they hit the ground he lost his grip and the Lapwing bounced free and took flight. The female Peregrine resumed the assault. Her would-be dinner crash landed in the deep water channel that crosses the marsh, then dived. The falcon hovered above the water, lunging at the Lapwing each time it was forced back to the surface to breathe. Three, four, five, six times she snatched at its head but on each occasion it eluded here and re-dived. Then she gave up and retreated to a fence post to preen. The Lapwing continued 'downstream', still repeatedly diving, emerging from the water after fifty yards or so and seeking sanctuary among the rushes. Initially I thought that the Lapwing must be poorly (or dimwitted) to remain on the marsh when all its companions had departed but, ill or not, its performance demonstrated an extraordinary will to survive and I saluted it.

A friend once told me of a similar incident that took place while he was sailing his dinghy in the Blackwater. On this occasion the assailant was again a Peregrine, its intended victim another wader, a Turnstone. The latter was obviously physically spent and on the point of being killed when it saw his boat and changed direction towards it. It arrived just ahead of the Peregrine and dived into the water, resurfacing beneath the prow of his boat, where it hid, treading water. Frustrated, the falcon circled low overhead, hoping the Turnstone would panic and resume flight, but after a few minutes gave up and flew off. Shortly afterwards the Turnstone emerged from its hiding place and headed off in the opposite direction.

On another occasion, friends watched a Redshank being pursued by two Peregrines, a Merlin and a Marsh Harrier at Mayland. Remarkably, the Redshank eluded all four of them, again by diving into the water, re-emerging after a few yards, flying a short distance and then repeating the procedure. Even so, it is unlikely that it would have survived had not the superabundance of raptors pursuing it decided to bicker among themselves, giving it time to make for the cover of the saltings.

Waders have evolved to wade, not to dive underwater (although most can swim tolerably well when feeding in the shallows) but it would appear that new tricks can soon be learned when it comes to the survival of the fittest!

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