Urban diary: Buzzards

imagesThe picture is of the Tesco in Cradley Heath. Anybody who knows the Black Country would tell you that the environs of the Cradley Heath Tesco are about as definitively urban as it gets.

A few days ago, we were just around the corner, browsing Motor Market’s forecourts in the hope of finding a nice Fiesta-sized car for the household’s newest driver. From above came the insistent, repetitive calls which mean only one thing – buzzards, plural.

In fact there were four: all similarly sized, circling in a tight group and climbing steadily over an area where greenery is in short supply. Then it was five: a much larger bird arrived and – flying considerably higher – it too began to circle, seemingly waiting for the others to climb and rendezvous. Possibly a female rejoining a family group of male partner and this year’s brood. Only a few years back, such a sight, in this place, would have been unthinkable.


Buzzard – Source: Brittanica

But the recovery of this sometimes underrated raptor, welcome though it is to most of us who love to see them climbing on updraughts (and despite being by no means complete) is far from meeting with universal appreciation. The sources of the dissent are unsurprising; the lines of argument predictable. The Countryside Alliance believes that the “(buzzard) population is becoming unsustainable, and in some instances is having an adverse impact on other wildlife”; apparently our track record of intervention and eradication of apex predators isn’t enough to persuade them that keeping well out of it might be for the best. This is an organisation which employs a ‘Head of Shooting’; is it possible to imagine a more wretched job title?

Meanwhile, a report for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation – hardly a neutral broker when it comes to these issues – estimated that on average between 1% and 2% of pheasant poults were killed by birds of prey. Between one and two per-cent! and that’s an “estimate” by an organisation with an axe to grind. I wonder if there are any “estimates” available for the percentage of nests trampled by open-grazed livestock? Or by a deer population, completely out of control as a direct consequence of our inability to co-exist (yes, really) with apex predators? Like those buzzards climbing over Cradley Heath, we seem to be going round in circles…


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