You can see them glid­ing high in the sky on mo­tion­less wings when the weather’s fine

Garden News (UK) - - News - With Ju­lian Rollins

Gar­den­ing’s an ac­tiv­ity that in­volves a lot of look­ing down, but it pays to straighten up from time to time. It gives you the chance to ease the strain on your back – and to scan the sky.

That’s when you’ll spot a buz­zard. Back in the 1970s, the high-flier was a much rarer sight than it is to­day, whereas now it’s one of the UK’s com­mon­est birds of prey.

It’s es­ti­mated that there are cur­rently around 80,000 breed­ing pairs. They’ve spent the sum­mer rais­ing fam­i­lies, so there are more buz­zards around now than at any other time of year.

The last cen­tury or so has been chal­leng­ing for Bri­tish buz­zards. In Vic­to­rian times they were killed as a mat­ter of rou­tine. They eat small mam­mals, mostly ro­dents, and scav­enge car­casses. But game birds are also taken, so game­keep­ers saw the buz­zard as ver­min that had to be con­trolled.

But af­ter the First World War there were far fewer game­keep­ers around, so the buz­zard be­gan a mod­est come­back. It stalled in the 1950s, when the first wave of myx­o­mato­sis wiped out Bri­tain’s rab­bits.

It meant that by the early years of the 1970s, nearly all of Eng­land, and most of North­ern Ire­land, were buz­zard-free. To see one you had to go to Scot­land, Wales or Devon and Corn­wall.

Since then though the come­back has con­tin­ued. In Eng­land, the buz­zard’s spread has been re­ally strik­ing. Even coun­ties such as Suf­folk, Nor­folk and Kent are now buz­zard coun­try. Some­thing else has hap­pened, too. Now you’ll even see them in the sub­urbs.

So, wher­ever you are, it’s worth look­ing out for buz­zards. If it’s fine, they’ll be soar­ing high in the sky, glid­ing on mo­tion­less wings. If it’s rain­ing (or has re­cently been rain­ing) you can some­times see them wait­ing pa­tiently for the weather to im­prove. Favourite wait­ing ar­eas in­clude tele­graph poles and fence posts.

Look along fence posts and tele­graph poles for sub­ur­ban sight­ings of buz­zards

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