Let’s hear it for the buzzard – and the osprey

I fled Scotland a day early and am now back home – the weather drove me away.  I did consider turning up at the Scottish Game Fair on Friday, but standing around in the rain, in a soggy field full of people moaning about buzzards didn’t really appeal to me.  I see they will get more rain today too.

You didn’t have to be there yesterday, or turn up today or tomorrow, to know that this video of a buzzard taking an osprey from its nest will be much-mentioned. It is an amazing video – well worth watching several times.

The press release from Scottish Land & Estates has the title ‘Buzzard snatch of osprey chick raises conservation fears’ although they couldn’t find anyone who is a professional conservationist to express this view.  Instead, the press release quotes Euan Webster as follows:

This was a shocking act and clearly demonstrates why something needs to be done to control buzzards. It cannot be right that the buzzard remains protected yet they swarm over the countryside in large numbers eating prey – including iconic and beautiful birds such as ospreys – at will.

“Any farmer or shepherd will tell you about the threat from buzzards yet the powers that be are reluctant to face up to the fact that sooner rather than later measures have to put in place to control them. This incident should sound alarm bells among those who care about the conservation of our rarer wild birds such as ospreys in Scotland.

“As a former chairman of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Grampian regional group I am an enthusiastic believer in balanced and managed conservation.  I know research by the trust is suggesting buzzards are active predators that may well be affecting conservation of birds in some parts of Scotland. However, I was not prepared to have buzzards (sic) active predatory behaviours so clearly demonstrated right under my nose. It would be a great shame if we could not find a way to reduce the very clear predation pressure from this now ubiquitous predator.”

I’m quite surprised to see a buzzard take an osprey chick from its nest, except that they are well known to do similar tricks with carrion crows and rooks (please step forward you farmers to sing the buzzards’ praises!) and it has been suggested to me that this all looks  a bit suspicious (where was the male osprey? was the buzzard a falconer’s bird? how was the osprey carcasse recovered rather than ending up in a buzzard’s nest?) but I prefer to think that there is nothing even remotely suspicious about this remarkable footage.  I think this was a real buzzard eating a real osprey.

Let’s hear it for the osprey – laying down its life to save that (temporarily, only) of a pheasant that would otherwise be cruelly taken by a voracious buzzard!

And let’s hear it for the buzzard too – taking a voracious fish-eater that would otherwise be growing up to feast on Scotland’s fishermen’s stocked trout!

You couldn’t get a happier coincidence from the point of view of Scotland’s hunting folk.  When they have thought about it a bit more, or at all, they will raise a statue to these two birds as the hunting, shooting and fishing person’s best friends! They may even dedicate the statue to HM the Queen for a laugh.  I bet they’ll be passing the hat round at Scone, in the rain, today to commission the work.

Real news:

Please sign Plantlife’s road verge petition.

Please support Buglife’s call for a public enquiry on the devastating loss of freshwater mussels.

Buy this month’s Birdwatch (that’s the one with the puffin on the cover) to read my monthly column which talks about Walshaw Moor and hen harriers – but also I have an article in this Birdwatch on how climate change will change, and is changing, your birdwatching.

If you are a gardener, you might give a glance to Gardens Illustrated this month (July) where I have a rant about gardeners’ use of peat!

Did you notice the amazing statement by Defra officials (in a letter to the Badger Trust, reported in the Guardian this week) that ‘advice from the NFU was so integral to the development of the cull policy” that it considered the NFU to be a part of the government in this instance, and would therefore not release its “internal” communications with the lobby group‘.  Just remember that when you hear the NFU spouting off about the environment – they have such a cosy and close relationship with government that Defra is unwilling to be open about the details of that relationship on a matter of public interest and are regarded by government (which you elected) as part of government.  The NFU has disappearingly low scientific credentials but remember that the Tories promised ‘a carefully-managed and science-led policy of badger control’ in their election manifesto.  I don’t remember it saying that they would take their advice directly and secretly from the NFU.

And finally, you must have noticed that the four semi-finalists in Euro 2012 were all above average in their Natura 2000 site coverage, and that the team with the greater coverage won each of those semi-finals.  Clearly Spain will vanquish Italy tomorrow night.


14 Replies to “Let’s hear it for the buzzard – and the osprey”

  1. The buzzard filmed taking the osprey chick was a normal event in nature & the only unusual aspect was that it was caught on camera. We have no way of knowing how often this occurs.
    It was surprising though that the osprey chick was later found.
    I am sure both sides of the arguement will use the footage to plead their case.
    The only thing I find surprising is that the buzzard hasn’t taken the other chick too.

  2. It certainly serves to remind us that predator ecology is rather complex. Predators can keep eachother’s numbers in balance as well as their prey species. It can be the loss of one particular predator or group of predators that heightens impact of other species predation. Moreover the impact isnpt just from killing but also territorial and behavioral changes. If there was an ‘explosion’ of buzzard numbers it might partly be down to a dearth of birds like Goshawks. In SOME cases that might justify control by human intervention as is the case with wild deer whose numbers are no longer limited by any form of natural predation.

  3. Great to see buglife active in Cumbria. My latest book [Hadrian’s Wildlife] has a piece on the Romans active in the North Tyne after mussels but it was the mussel’s life cycle that tickled myself when writing about it. What with the big modern Kielder dam and the transport of fish up and down the waters how this species still survives is a marvel.

  4. Speaks volumes if Euan Webster considers Buzzards to be capable of “shocking acts”, suggesting them to be evil in some bizzare way, when Ospreys in this context, are portrayed as the poor victims. If the boot fits, I could easily see SL&E amongst others doing likewise for any predator they would like to get in their sights for a bit of sport. It is their ignorance of nature I find most shocking.

  5. “give a glance to Gardens Illustrated ”

    I like rants, but it’s well hidden. Maybe my browser is blocking something. Give us another clue?

      1. Duh! Don’t use dead tree press any more – rigid paperless office policy.

        I don’t like using peat composts – but for seeds I have found peat-free too poisonous. Some F1 hybrids only have 5 or 6 seeds in a packet and the germination in peat-free compost is rantingly poor.

        When I was a teenager discovering my green fingers, John Innes composts boasted that they were made using the finest Kettering Loam. Never having knowingly been to Kettering, I imagine it is now perched on top of a deeply dissected plateau in the Badlands of Northamptonshire.

  6. Filbert Cobb right about peat free compost no good for seeds.
    Cannot see how Buzzards are a problem for farmers as they control rabbits,we were always pleased to see them perched on stakes on the lookout for rabbits.
    Of course they take some pheasant poults that are put on their table but lets get rid of this myth put about by interested party’s for propaganda that farmers = shooters.

    1. Let’s do that! The easiest way might be to get rid of this myth that interested parties are putting out for propaganda that interested parties are putting out a myth for propaganda that farmers = shooters.

      It’s always best to tackle the root cause of these things.

  7. Looking forward to next months Shooting Times cover: ‘Buzzard love-nest reveals gay Nazi sex romp’ ?

    1. Or ‘Buzzards in new cancer risk shock’ / ‘Buzzards u-turn causes record fall in house prices’

  8. While we’re considering shocking acts of super aggressive predators, when oh when is something going to be done about blue tits and other small insect eating songbirds savagely murdering millions of caterpillars every spring? It’s high time this menace was dealt with by adding all these birds to the general licence … in fact, we’d better destroy all broadleaved woodland at once to remove any possible food sources or potential nest sites for these “pests”, you can’t be too careful… come to think of it, when oh when are we going to intervene to stop the savage murder of innocent young oak leaves by defoiliating caterpillars? It’s about time something was done about that too, I suggest …

  9. Fantastic video. Nobody considers all the crows that get taken this way. Buzzards and kites suddenly being present in an ecosystem must affect corvids. I was reading somewhere that Red Kites are specialists at predating Rook chicks in season.

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