STAFFORDSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST
THE October meeting of the Leek Group of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust welcomed the return of expert ornithologist Keith Offord with “What’s that raptor?”
This talk would help anyone identify that dot in the sky.
Many elements can help identify a bird from a distance, the term used is giss, meaning “general impression, size and shape’’.
So wing shape, number of primary feathers showing at the end of the wing, tail shape, head size, type of flight such as gliding, hovering, flying fast near ground level, habitat, plus many other clues all contribute something to the identification process.
With raptors you also have to take into account the fact that in most cases reverse size dimorphism is exhibited, that is, the female is larger than the male.
The falcons, kestrel, hobby, merlin and peregrine are of a similar size and all have long pointed wings, but kestrels have a long tail which helps them hover, merlins fly very fast close to the ground over moorland areas, hobbies are usually found over rolling heathland and have the longest wings relative to body size, peregrines prefer open country although many are now found in urban areas making use of tall buildings as nest sites rather than cliffs, they also often hunt in pairs. Falcons never build a nest but make use of other birds’ old nests or just use a bare ledge.
The accipiters, Sparrowhawk and Goshawk, are both primarily woodland birds hunting by stealth weaving their way through trees and round bushes chasing prey. Sparrowhawks can often be seen flying along hedgerows and suddenly swooping over the hedge to catch prey.
Goshawks are very much more a secretive bird hunting in woodland. The Sparrowhawk has much more rounded wings. The Montagu’s Harrier and Hen Harrier are separated by whether they have four or five (respectively) projecting primary feathers and the Hen Harrier has a broader wing. Marsh Harriers are much larger birds with a long tail and light flight with wings held in a shallow “V”.
The Red Kite was at an all-time low in
1947 with just three birds surviving in mid-wales but now they number over
1000 pairs. Easily identified by their forked tail and long floppy wings. The Common Buzzard has very variable colouring but has broad wings and a short tail.
The golden eagle, now virtually confined to Scotland with around 400 pairs, is very large with broad wings and a longish tail, compared to the Common Buzzard.
It likes to soar on air currents with its wings in a shallow V formation.
The largest bird in Britain is the whitetailed eagle now with a population of around 100 pairs. It has massive broad wings and a white wedge-shaped tail.
The osprey looks similar to a gull in flight with its long wings angled at the wrist.
This was Keith at his best with more detail than can be summarised here. He also included many occasional summer visitors in his comparisons so any birder who saw this presentation should be well armed both for raptors in this country and abroad. Sponsor for the evening was Tree Heritage Ltd., Arboricultural Contractors and Consultants 01538 384019.
The next event organised by the group will be an illustrated talk by Jeff Clarke entitled ‘a Night on the Tiles’
On dark, chilly winter evenings most of us draw the curtains, settle down to whatever we need to do or relax in front of the television – not so Jeff Clarke.
Only infrequently does it cross our minds that this is the very time that much of our wildlife becomes active.
Jeff’s talk recounts the ramblings of a nocturnal naturalist and reveals just what goes bump in the night. He describes his adventures and misadventures that bring to life the wildlife of the small hours, all laced with a liberal dose of humour.
The talk takes place on Tuesday, November 13 at St Paul’s Church Centre, Novi Lane, Leek, 7.30pm. Admission £3, children free, includes refreshments.
Again, Christmas goods, Christmas cards, calendars and locally produced Longsdon honey will be on sale. Call 01538 300264.
Our annual coffee morning took place on October 19 and was a resounding success with a total of £331 raised.
Our grateful thanks to all those who helped on the day, gave donations, drank coffee, multi-baked and/or baked twice. As always monies raised locally are spent locally, in this case the restoration of the Roaches following the disastrous fire that occurred a few weeks ago.
Special thanks to our sponsors Uprights Solicitors, Bury & Hilton and Moorland Veterinary Centre who kindly bought up leftover cakes.