Our Patch: Never Mind the Buzzards

By on Wednesday, March 5, 2014

our_patch_sj_jarmanFor those who are fed up of columns about birds, I apologise! I have had such a brilliant week for one of our avian residents, I can’t help but crow (sorry) about it.

For a while I have been rolling an idea around my mind for a column about how to use architecture to our advantage whilst looking for wildlife.

We have a large number of railway bridges in and around the area, which give fantastic opportunities to look either up or down on unsuspecting creatures. Often a bridge lifts you into the treetops, so you are in the actual canopy (particularly useful when watching birds), or you can be so high in comparison to an animal (particularly mammals) that they don’t see you as a threat.


Creatures which are used to trains whizzing under, or cars whizzing over, a bridge can be fairly relaxed around noise, meaning you can sometimes get a little closer to them than you would usually manage.

Well, this week I was walking and pondering over the railway bridge at Cumber Lane, Whiston, wondering how to take a picture to illustrate what I meant, when looking down I noticed a huge wingspan flying directly towards me, following the path I myself was about to take (and where I have regularly spotted rabbits).

When I talk of huge wingspan I mean about 1.3m (4.3’), which is fairly imposing when flying towards to you at around 20mph.


As I scrabbled and fought with my lens cap, the majestic wings belonging to our commonest raptor (bird of prey), the Common Buzzard, turned around with amazing precision and disappeared into the woods.

I got a brilliant shot of the trees the buzzard had been in front of 2 seconds earlier – but alas, it had gone.

I have always had a soft spot for buzzards – big and lazy (unfortunately meaning their persecution has been easy), they were really not all that common when I started getting interested in wildlife – they are a true success story and I feel truly privileged to regularly see them soaring over my own back garden.

Knowing them as I do, I knew that this buzzard would not be too far away, and as I carried on walking and the dog ran round frantically failing to catch anything but a scent trail, we came upon the buzzard again, sat on an impossibly small branch.

It gave us a withering look and took to the wing again, where, catching a thermal, it sat effortlessly gliding tantalisingly just out of reach of the camera’s range.

After a few minutes watching, and with a gentle verbal reminder from the dog of the true purpose of our outing, we continued walking.

I could hear the buzzard calling, and kept looking to the sky for a glimpse, and after a few more minutes I was rewarded with a view of not one but two buzzards – coming into land about 200m away in some dense trees.

They were loudly vocalising to each other despite sharing a tree, which heightened my curiosity, and, much to the dog’s disgust, I headed towards them camera in hand.

As I approached, I was less than 100m away, and the birds were silhouetted against the grey sky, so couldn’t get a decent shot, but what I could see without the benefit of a long lens was that the birds were mating.

As I have observed these birds regularly over the last few years, these are the birds as I’d refer to as the resident pair (they mate for life), and I remember seeing them chasing another buzzard (perhaps one of last year’s brood) not too long ago. They were clearly preparing to start the cycle over again.

I think the bird that I had first seen when on the bridge was probably the male looking for a rabbit to present to his lady friend as a gift before they consummated their relationship. He was unfortunately thwarted by a nature lover walking her daft German Shepherd dog down the trail it intended to use!


SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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