May 22, 2011

Blowing in the wind

It's still bone dry, still fine, but winds are battering the country - and they couldn't have come at a worse time for birds. We saw three chicks within the space of an hour this morning, all of which had been blown out of their nests before they were quite able to fly. One was this handsome young greater spotted woodpecker:

Scout found it in a dry ditch on Tooting Common. At first I thought she'd found a little water and was having a drink; when I looked more closely I saw the chick, weak, but with his already formidable beak held open threateningly against her questing nose. I scooped him up and put him high in the crook of the nearby willow tree, in some ivy, as close as I could to where I'd heard tweeting coming from on previous days. I hope he had the sense to stay there; I hope his parents found him and fed him, maybe encouraged him  back into the nest. I hope he's OK.

Nearby, on the grass, we came across the head of a male stag beetle. The body had been cleanly removed and, presumably, eaten; the massive mandibles and one set of forelegs opened and closed still, like a mechanical toy running down. Crows often patrol the grass nearby, another bird with a formidable beak; it seems a shame for such an impressive and rare beetle, six years in the making, to end its days in such a manner, but one can only hope that it had a chance to breed before becoming a snack.

Nature, it seems, is red not only in tooth and claw, but in beak, too.