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A buzzard in tights; and something VERY VERY bad


(There's a REALLY IMPORTANT BIT about buzzards at the very end of this post which I want to everyone to read and do something about.)

Where I live there are lots of buzzards. They are beautiful, medium-sized birds of prey that some people mistake for golden eagles even though they are half the size. Around here they live near woods where pheasants are bred, like the Ardoch Estate and the Gleneagles Wood, and if you walked through the Ardoch Estate you would see almost a dozen nests which have been lived in by buzzards for years and years.

My friend Jack lives in a farm north of the village. One day he mentioned he had found a dead buzzard in his fields and asked if I wanted it for the bones. This is what it looked like when his grandfather brought it round a few days later:

I have found a lot of buzzard skulls before, as well as an ill buzzard which I brought home and a dead buzzard which I left. You have to be more careful with dead buzzards because they are a protected species, as are all birds of prey in the UK. Gamekeepers don't like buzzards because they think they eat the pheasants and pheasant eggs that the gamekeepers are trying to protect, and some gamekeepers shoot them or leave out poisoned meat to kill the pheasants.

If you ever find a dead bird of prey with meat nearby, or froth coming out of its mouth, DO NOT TOUCH IT because it may have been poisoned, and if the poison gets on you, it can kill you too. Take pictures of everything, and show the police as soon as possible.
It looked a bit scruffy and it had what I thought was a broken neck from the way the head looked twisted. This was important because to legally keep bird bones and skulls in the UK (especially raptor skulls), you need to prove the animal died naturally.

Because of the neck, this buzzard looked like it had died from being mobbed. I have written about mobbing this time last year with a red kite, but it is quite common with buzzards. It happens when one or more corvids (crow family) try to attack a buzzard by pushing it out the sky:

How mobbing works

The week afterwards, Dad was out at the Gleneagles wood and saw this buzzard (at the bottom) being mobbed by a carrion crow (top).

The crow flies close behind the buzzard.

It hovers ahead of the buzzard waiting to pounce.

Then it flies down low, close to the buzzard, hoping to knock it down so it crashes into the ground:

That first attempt doesn't work so the buzzard tries to go higher:

It manages to get higher but the crow is still underneath:

The crow keeps going up trying to knock the buzzard. See how close it gets !

The buzzard survived this, and managed to get to a tree, but the crow was always close behind.

Here is another buzzard I found in 2010 which wasn't so lucky. You can see the neck is broken.

Putting tights on a buzzard

So how should I rot down the buzzard ? The idea I was using was much the same as the badger I left to decompose a few weeks before, but the bones would be smaller and would fall through that wire mesh I left, so I decided to use a pair of tights. But how do you get a buzzard in tights ? This is what I used:

I opened up the cereal box like this and wrapped the tights round one end.

I put some small holes in the tights to let flies in to lay maggots, and let insects and other animals come in.

Then I pushed it through the cereal box head first. I was wearing protective gloves.

This is how it came out:

The tights are good for holding the bones together, but they wouldn't stop predators such as foxes or other bird from eating the body, so it needed something else to protect it.

I used the same type of wire mesh as before:

And I wrapped it up tightly with cable ties:

There was an extra, secret, step which is YEAH, DO YOU REALLY THINK I'M THAT STUPID TO ACTUALLY WRITE IT HERE , HUH ? but I was told it in secrecy by Ben Garrod, so I'm not allowed to mention it here !

Then dad took it into the wood and hid it near the badger's body. He checked it on Wednesday, after it had been there for four weeks, and it was still there, undiscovered, but needed longer to decompose. He also has a very quick look at the badger, which has been there for five weeks now. He could see that there was still fur on the head, so it will probably take another eight or ten weeks to fully decompose.

This next bit is REALLY important

Buzzards are beautiful animals and I love seeing them around the countryside. But they have been in the news for other reasons this week. 

On Thursday the RSPB found out that Natural England, (which is the government organisation which looks after the countryside) had issued the first ever licence to allow someone to destroy up to four buzzard nests on a pheasant shooting estate. 

So basically, the organisation which protects buzzards is allowing someone to destroy buzzards so the other person can make more profit. It is absolutely STUPID.

This is the link to all the information the RSPB found. People only know this because the RSPB found it out. That why I am glad my family are RSPB members and help fund their work.

If you are angry about this, then you can help by signing this petition. This decision affects not just buzzards but all other birds of prey in the UK too. I am VERY angry about it.

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Ric said...

Hey nice one, Jake! Like the T shirt. I had an excellent view of a Red Kite being mobbed by a Herring Gull on the Welsh coast yesterday but unfortunately I was in the car and didn't have time to get the camera and long lens out of the boot. My daughter and I visited the Dyfi Osprey Project and then Ynys Hir, which is the site of SpringWatch. We saw the kite and gull as we were driving through Borth, where I wanted to do a bit of beachcombing. I feel the same about the buzzards issue and will be signing the petition today! Ric.

Jake said...

Brilliant, thanks ! I am looking forward to Springwatch starting on Monday !

Jake said...

Completely agree. The Natural England thing is so wrong.

Mori said...

Signed the petition. I can't stand it that so many people hate Buzzards. :'( The trouble is there is a large subset of people, not just those into pheasant shooting, who believe that everything that is wrong with the state of wildlife in Britain (species declines etc) is the fault of predators, both birds of prey and corvids. This is an incredibly short-sighted and non-scientific view, and it massively deflects attention from the real cause of these problems. (humans! Pretty much always.) It fosters hatred for birds of prey among people who don't really know much about nature but love songbirds in their gardens because they are pretty and sound nice, and don't like the idea of them ever being eaten or their nests being raided. But that is the reality of nature.

Regarding your warning about the dead birds of prey, I am now a little worried. Recently my friend found a dying Sparrowhawk, which he took home with him hoping he could do something for it, but it died. Before it died he described froth coming from its beak, and thought it had probably been poisoned. He is soon going to send it off to these toxicology experts: https://wiki.ceh.ac.uk/display/pbms/Home , which he had done before when he found a dead Red Kite (a road casualty, we think). But he touched the bird a lot, and invited me over to see the body because I wanted to look at the feathers, so I also touched it, and took some of the feathers from the body. (the toxicology people had said that was ok to do with the Red Kite, so this is legal to do.) Could he be in danger from touching a poisoned bird? Could the feathers I took be contaminated, and should I throw them away if so? If you don't know the answers to these questions, do you have a source of information that might? I'm slightly worried now. ^^

Jake said...

No you're OK, if you were poisoned you would know it by now! The feathers shouldn't be affected.

Birdbrain said...

I think is is completely wrong to destroyed a kill such beautiful birds it amazing to see them. Luckily where I live there are plenty of buzzards, kites and all of the british falcons and hawks.

I always look forward to when they moult cause them I can see if I can find any of their feathers for my collection :)

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