Wednesday 21 October 2015

Weather writer

It's been a while, huh? And I'm not sure why.

Blogging seems to have taken a back seat of late, but without any clear reason for the lack of output. Yeah, things have been busier recently, though not to the exclusion of all else, so it's a bit of a mystery as to the scarcity of wordage.

Coincidentally, this diminution of posting has accompanied some settled weather. Orkney has experienced a sort of Indian Summer, with warm spells and calm days. Perhaps the meteorology is my muse?

Now, as we experience the calm before the first storm of the season, here I am sat at my computer, tippy-tappeting away at the keyboard, brow furrowed in concentration as, outside, night falls and the sky uses the cover of darkness to unleash some serious weather.

In fact, the return of my muse was presaged a few mornings ago, when I opened the bedroom curtains, bleary-eyed and out of focus due to a lack of spectacles. I was vaguely aware of a flock of birds flying over the garden and away from the house.

Cue a quick sprint to the lounge for my bins, dodging Our Lass mid-Whatsapp, and arriving at the window to ID the flock. It was a large, tight group of birds, by now flying over the stubble field across the road. Starlings. But before I could even think of uttering the word 'murmuration', I noticed the reason for this particular behaviour. It was a female Hen Harrier, gliding nonchalantly through the airspace between the flock and the ground.

As the RSPB website explains:

"Starlings join forces for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird amidst a hypnotising flock of thousands."

OK, this particular flock was not of that order, but the intention was pretty clear.

However, Hen Harriers don't routinely surf the web, so this lady raptor suddenly went into a steep climb and stall, talons raised, as she bludgeoned into the massed ranks of Starlings.

The flock disintegrated, as each bird suddenly remembered an important engagement elsewhere, but not before one of their number had to send its final apology for a missed meeting. The harrier landed in a neighbouring field with her prize and, once sure that she wouldn't be disturbed, began to devour the unfortunate victim.

The whole episode had lasted a matter of seconds, but the memory of the natural drama will stay with me for a long while.


Anonymous said...

Thought Orkney had declaired independance, and cut us southeners off from the promised land!!!!!!!
Cpt. Sundial

Imperfect and Tense said...

Mainland UK was temporarily cut off from Orkney for a time on Thursday, during the 'shakedown' test of some Force 8 -10 meteorology. All back up and running on Friday.

biobabbler said...

Wow. Dramatic

Saw a murmuration last week as I drove home fm. the field at sunset. The sky was a vibrating pink as I flew (55mph) toward a long bridge and on my left was a hefty murmuration of (presumed) starlings. Dangerously hypnotizing as I had no where to stop & look & other cars were on my back bumper.

Maybe it's how starlings hunt naturalists? Hypnotize them so they drive off the bridge, into the river, her snacks floating up, out of the Honda, landing conveniently upon the beach nearby. "mmmm, coconut covered cashews!"

Imperfect and Tense said...

It's an interesting hypothesis!