September 2nd   Leave a comment

As I walked down to Balcomie Beach from the golf club I was greeted by the hysterical shrieking of a redshank – sounding like a murder was taking place. It’s always a fair sign that one is and as I got to the beach I flushed a sparrowhawk sitting invisible on the rocks above the tideline. It glided fifty meters further along the rocks – just about visible as it moved – before disappearing again as it perched on a rock, mottled brown amongst mottled brown rocks. The redshanks were shrieking again as it flew but after the sparrowhawk resumed perching and wasn’t visible any more they stopped. Far too risky to make a fuss when you don’t know where the predator has gone. The redshanks were super vigilant, craning their necks and keeping to the tide edges, but they didn’t do the obvious thing and leave. They are literally between a rock and a hard place because if they leave their territories too often then they are open to occupation by other redshanks: possession is nine tenths of the law with territoriality. I think that’s one of reasons they really shriek when a sparrowhawk is about and surprise hunting: the sparrowhawk’s ability to hunt by surprise is gone and it might then move on, but also the redshank makes clear it is deserting its territory for a good reason. And it would be a foolish redshank that then tried to exploit a territory holder’s absence while the sparrowhawk was there.

A sparrowhawk hunting over the rocks at Balcomie

The sparrowhawk’s progress along the shore for the next ten minutes was obvious – not because I could see it, but by the shrieks of the redshanks and the small flocks of golden plover – another bit of invisibility as they roosted on the rocky shore – flying off to a safer bit of beach. They are not territorial in winter so have no qualms about getting well out of the way.

And a golden plover getting out of the way

Posted September 2, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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