I’ve taken to walking to the farm of an evening, as there are resident foxes, fallow and roe deer, and the occasional badger, although I’ve not seen many of those this year. Yellowhammers, Carrion Crows, Wood Pigeons and Whitethroats are usually about too, as well as a pair of Blackbirds that I think – hope – have been nesting.
I was watching a pair of Barn Swallows preening on the telegraph wire that crosses over the yard between the the old barn and pig units (the farm has not been used for stock for years and it’s very dilapidated) and noting to myself that they didn’t seem to have any young with them so wondered if they’d not been able too raise a brood. It is intensively-farmed arable and there are not many insects around.
Suddenly, the birds took off and were joined by another six Swallows, chattering and swooping acrobatically above the buildings. I tried to see if they were juveniles as I couldn’t understand why the sudden increase in activity, until a Peregrine flew up in front of me above the low roof of the machinery barn. It saw me and swerved abruptly, and flew off over the other side of the farm where I saw it join its mate and head off over the fields. The Swallows, meanwhile, seemed to have vanished: I scoured the sky with my bins but couldn’t see them at all.
I noticed this before when I had a Peregrine sitting at the top of the beech tree in my garden. Within seconds of it landing, about eight Jays appeared literally from nowhere – we do get Jays but I rarely see more than two or three at a time – and they were yelling and yelling at it until it flew off. I know my cockerels have a special call for an aerial predator, distinguishable from the dozen or so other calls they have to keep their flock informed, but I didn’t see any other birds in the tree so how did the Jays know the Peregrine was there? And how did they rally their chums for some extra help? Fascinating stuff.
I had to draw the scene, so despite my tired eyes, I sketched out a few details from memory:
It always astonishes me how these brief encounters must happen all the time, and had I left the house half a minute later, I would have missed it.