Leek Post & Times - - DOWN YOUR WAY -

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.

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