Are they ill, or are they having a rest?


(Click on image to enlarge)

21st September 2011: I am at home, stretched out on my reclining chair. My thinking cap is well and truly pulled over my brow. In this condition I have made connections between the dead blackbird mentioned in my post of 19th September, and various other blackbirds and pigeons that I have found similarly afflicted. These birds were found on the mash over a three-month period, in one particularly small patch of grass . I have commented on some of these birds in earlier blog posts. I am seriously considering the validity of these connections, and I intend to get to the bottom of this bird mystery! I should have cottoned-on to this mystery ages ago. Could I be experiencing age-related brain befuddling? I don’t know! I must have stood over half-dozen dead or stunned blackbirds and pigeons, and wondered if they were ill or just tired. I have a strong suspicion that the buzzards are the culprits here. I feel that I didn’t examine the dead blackbird closely enough – the foxes will have eaten it by now. My impression is that there was one set of buzzard sized talon punctures in the blackbird’s body.


Could a kestrel have brought these birds down? I saw a kestrel hovering over the lagoon field that same day. The kestrels appear on the marsh when the undergrowth starts to thin out. Whether it was a buzzard or kestrel that brought these birds down, why didn’t they eat them? Kestrels go for small prey, like mice. I saw a sparrow hawk flying across the lagoon field that evening, too. A buzzard will not take moving prey; they are slow flyers. A buzzard will wait perched on a tree branch for its prey to land or walk below it. When the prey is stationary, the buzzard will swoop down and grab it.

Wandering the marsh is all about making connections. This is one of the main things that make the whole process so interesting. Obviously, my old noggin should translate all the available bits of visual information flowing through my eyes and flick the connection switch when it thinks I have seen something that it considers to be of particular interest me. I can then don my Sherlock Holmes hat and investigate the matter further. It has taken me three months to acknowledge these connections, and that’s too long in my book.


I am a little confused on another matter. I spotted a polecat at the bottom of fox hollow this morning – this is at the southern end of Hoo Wood. Well, my brain said polecat, and I have owned a few ferrets and polecats in my time, but I can’t help wondering if what I actually saw was a squirrel. It didn’t run like a squirrel, I can say that – all four legs seemed to be moving independently. First, I see a ferret and now a polecat? Am I hallucinating? I think I will withhold judgement on this for the time being. The solution is to photograph the darn things, but they are fast-moving critters. I am slow-moving in comparison, both mentally and physically. I don’t usually find it difficult photographing squirrels. The problem might be that, whilst I am able to see more animals, now that the undergrowth has shrunk back, it is taking me a while to get my eye in. I am seeing things that I am not expecting to see and that’s always a bit disconcerting.

Ah well! There is always tomorrow. I might find my answers tomorrow.

These are links to previous stunned bird posts.

10 Comments on “Are they ill, or are they having a rest?

  1. I think the thing is……….to be open to the possibility of the impossible. Imagine the unimaginable. In my walks across the local Botanic Gardens over the last 15 months, I have become aware of not only Australian native birds & small critters, but that English species (probably bought out on the First Fleet to Melbourne in the late 1780’s & ’90s) have descendents running around the current Botanic Gardens.

    I saw an English Fox running down the back lane in my inner city location. I thought I was seeing things, but a neighbour concurred when a fox stood at her back door one morning (seemingly waiting for a handout of food).

    Possums on my side fence which I had thought dead, suddenly re-appear when there’s a shortage of food. But now there’s the current evidence that the possums are truly gone from my local area. This Spring, a favourite rose bush next to my balcony is finally growing abundant foliage (after years of being eaten by the possum population). Yes, I think the possums have really & truly gone from our garden.

    Just when you think you have the reason for the decimation of your blackbird & pigeon population, you may well find that the culprit is a cunning critter you hadn’t thought of at all.

    It may not be that you’re SLOW putting the evidence together. It may be that you still haven’t seen the conclusive evidence, or last ‘piece of the puzzle’.

  2. There is no doubt about it, I am not as quick witted as I used to be. My sons would probably say that I never have been quick witted, but that’s just plain mean.

    Do you live in NZ, Victoria, and if so, how did an English fox get over there?

    I thought I remembered you saying that you lived in Surrey. If so, how have you got possums in your garden?

    Have I got things mixed-up again?

    I will solve the stunned bird mystery, one way or another.

    I’m stretched out on my recliner again, and this is where I plan my sleuthing. My daughter-in-law is hot on sleuthing. She lives in Vermon, though. I think I might ask her for help. She spends a lot of time sleuthing, but I am not sure how successful she is. It might be worth a try.

  3. The mystery deepens Mike!!! No doubt you will find the culprit when you least expect it so ‘keep em peeled’!

    Warmer weather next week…an Indian Summer?

  4. Like I said on the second page of this blog, Pam: “Will the next 10 years be much warmer than the last? There are people who profess to be able to predict such things, but do they really know what will happen with our British weather?” I will believe it when it havens!

    “The mystery deepens Mike!!! No doubt you will find the culprit when you least expect it so ‘keep em peeled’!” Do you have any ideas, Pam?

    Maybe the answer will come from someone’s chance comment.

    • I can only think a Fox or Buzzard are the hunters Mike! Are there many Mallards in or around the water?

  5. There are mallards in and out of the water, Pam – quite a few.

    I am going to add another culprit to the list: air rifle (BB gun).

  6. Hi Mike,

    I heard from the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust that someone saw a family of polecats playing on the ‘island’ recently – so I don’t think you’re hallucinating!

  7. Thanks for that info, Dom.

    Now I can concentrate on what I’m seeing, rather than on what think I am seeing. I should trust my instincts.

    I am surprised that anyone can see anything on the ground on that island. It’s so overgrown. I guess a person can get lucky. Last time I was there, the Himalayan balsam was eight feet tall, and it was impossible to make progress without scaring all the wildlife away.

  8. I haven’t found any pellets, Pam. Thinking back on the size of the talon piercings in the blackbird’s body and the fact that all the affected birds have been within a meter of each other, an air rifle is another option. I need another dead or stunned bird to solve the mystery.

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