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Birds of prey conservation
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With live images of life in the peregrine nest being beamed live into our homes and offices via the internet it is all too easy to forget just how privileged we are to be seeing such wonderful birds of prey at close quarters. As I hinted in my previous blog entry, not so long ago you might have had to trek far into the hills to see a peregrine but their changing fortunes and habits are not the only notable changes amongst raptor species.
Just a few years ago, unless you were a bit of an expert birder, the only birds of prey you were likely to see with any regularity in Nottinghamshire were the kestrels hovering above roadsides or sparrowhawks stalking garden birds around your bird table.
Surprisingly, both these birds are now outnumbered by the common buzzard – making this majestic bird our most common day flying bird of prey. Here in Nottinghamshire they can be seen almost anywhere, including many of our nature reserves such as Attenborough, Duke’s Wood and in the heart of Sherwood Forest over our Rainworth and Strawberry Hills Heath Reserves – two sites where the magical merlin can occasionally be seen hunting small birds in the adjoining fields. The goshawk, whilst nowhere near as numerous as the common buzzard, can also be spotted in and around Sherwood Forest and the Dukeries.
Another bird of prey that can occur on a host of our reserves, as well as in much of the wider countryside and in parks and suburban areas, is the tawny owl. However, you are much more likely to hear one than to see one. The barn owl is another species which has made a recovery in numbers – largely thanks to the efforts of volunteers providing replacement nest sites. They can be seen in much of rural Nottinghamshire and are regularly seen at our Idle Valley and Besthorpe Reserves.
Another wonderful member of the owl family, the long-eared owl, can be seen hunting over rough pasture at our Misson Carr reserve and there are occasionally communal roosts at Skylarks, Fairham Brook and Wilwell Farm Cutting.
Other species you may be lucky enough to spot include the hobby – sometimes seen chasing dragonflies or swifts and swallows over the reedbeds at sites such as Attenborough – where you might also catch a glimpse of short-eared owls.
Peregrine falcons can be seen at a couple of locations in the county but are easiest to spot sitting on Nottingham Trent University’s Newton building in the centre of Nottingham. As I mentioned previously, larger birds such as the osprey can be seen on migration along theTrent Valley. Even the red kite, once so near to extinction, can occasionally be seen.
So, next time you visit the countryside, keep your eyes peeled for our wonderful birds of prey.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust