Posted by: mynaturaldiary | July 16, 2011

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

I don’t often see predation at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme, so there’s a temptation to think it doesn’t happen. But it does, and it is part of nature.

A female Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

took her young chicks onto the waters. As she dived for food, waiting Lesser Black Backed gulls picked off her young, one by one.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam

This seems so true when seeing the passing of a seasons chicks left undefended by their mother. Yet when the Lesser Black Backed Gulls try the same trick on the colony of Black Headed Gulls and Common Terns, the collective response from the parents is an outraged attack on the intruders.

So perhaps in part what is seen here is the difference in chick rearing strategy  between ‘solitary’ vs ‘social’ nesting. And it’s clear that socialising, with all it’s attendant squabbles between individuals is more successful than going solo.

But those internecine squabbles are very real. To be successful, you first have to catch your fish, but also keep it to deliver it to your young.

There is in nature a free lunch if you can make someone else drop theirs; bullying can be a way of life.

Perhaps civilisation isn’t such a bad thing after all.

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam

But, of course, the birds don’t have this to fall back on and the quest for the next meal goes on.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

Other predators were on the reserve, including Grey Herons and Little Egrets.

The herons can keep very still, with only a flicker of movement to reveal they are alive.

It was a wet day…

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

On the same waters, indifferent by virtue of their size to these predators were Moorhen and a delightful young Coot.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Their greens legs never fail to impress me!

Coot (Fulica atra)

In the distance was a delightful Black tailed Godwit in his summer finery.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

And the first for many visits, a Little Grebe.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

There’s a hint of the skeins of geese to come, as the young Greylag Geese join their parents in the skies.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

And finally on the feeders in Wildlife Watchpoint hide, a Blue Tit.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)



  1. […] what happened when these passed to close to the Tufted Duck’s young last year? Keep a watch out, this […]

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