Friday, 9 November 2012

Birds of Prey.

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest blog. I hope you are looking forward to a hopefully relaxing weekend. This focus of this week’s blog is on birds of prey. Starting with an introduction to a section which as the month progresses will go into more detail on Owls. Followed a little on the harsh reality of nature and finished off with the usual endangered section of the blog this time drawing attention to the Philippine Eagle.



I remember when I saw a Barn Owl in the wild for the first time. Its ghostly wide underbelly even more striking against the dark night sky as it flew effortlessly and silently over the field close to our car searching for rodents unaware of the approaching danger. It was an experience that has always stayed with me and still remains one of my all time wildlife spotting highlights. Over the course of this month I highlight an owl species native and in some cases unnative which inhabit Britain. As you will probably have assumed this week Barn Owls take centre stage, here are some facts you may or may not know about them.

1) The Barn Owl is also known by its other names of White Owl and the Screech Owl.

2) Barn Owls do not hoot they screech which is the reason they have been sometime referred to as the Screech Owl.

3) The diet of the Barn Owl consists of predominately rodents however they will also take young rabbits, moles, birds and frogs.

4) Other noises Barn Owls are capable of making include hissing, snapping and snoring.

5) Barn Owls in North Europe tend to be darker in colour than those in Britain.

Facts sourced from BBC Nature.

                                                     A harsh reminder of nature.

Looking through stories  about our birds of prey here in Britain I came across this from summer just passed,  reminder that nature can seem harsh.

Although the loss of a young individual of a species struggling to establish a large breeding population in Britain, is always sad this is the sort of occurrence that happens in nature on a regular basis. Anyone feeling anger towards the Buzzard over it’s act of predation, it's important to remember the Buzzard isn't doing it for fun, it's doing it to survive. This leads me to my main grumble about the article, although the pictures are fascinating, the phrase “the shocking moment” irritates me. It's not shocking it's a completely natural act of nature and a reminder that in the wild there are no rules or guidelines for animals to follow, and the sooner people accept that the better.

                                              Endangered Species : Philippine Eagle.

The Philippine Eagle is ranked by the IUCN as critically endangered. This is unsurprising as it has an incredibly small population as a result of a severe decline over the past three generations. Again unsurprisingly, one of the main reasons behind this decline are man made problems in this case severe deforestation. Is anyone noticing than man made problems seem to feature heavily in this section of the blog?

The Philippine Eagle is a huge bird, in fact the largest living Eagle in terms of length in the world. On top of this it has a wingspan of two meters and have a greater surface area than any other Eagle.

As the name suggests, the Philippine Eagle is endemic to the Philippine Islands with the largest part of the population of the species is thought to be in Mindanao where an estimated 82 -233 breeding pairs live. It is thought there is a maximum of 750 individuals left in the wild.

The Philippine Eagle has a habitat of choice is typically primary dipterocarp forest this is especially the case in terrain where the incline is steep. They can also less frequently be seen in secondary growth and gallery forest.

The  diet of this species is varied proving previous theories that it fed exclusively on monkeys incorrect. Such was the assumption it was even given the additional name of Monkey- eating Eagle. More recent research however has proven that prey preference differs from island to island for example the Eagles of Mindanao are Philippine Flying Lemurs, however on other islands where the species are less abundant other prey species including small mammals, reptiles and birds, such as snakes, monitor lizards, hornbills ,and owls. There have even been reports of dogs and young pigs being taken. The eagle does of course hunt monkeys as well and it has been documented to hunt cooperatively in pairs when attacking a troop.

The threats to the Philippine Eagle are unfortunately large, very prominent and once again largely thanks to the interference of man. As a result of one pair of breeding Eagles needing a range of twenty five to fifty square miles to successfully raise a chick, they are hugely at risk of deforestation. Of which there is plenty.

The forest they depend on is lost at an alarming rate, exposure to pesticides affect breeding success rates mining and of course the main example of how mans greed continues to destroy the natural world possibly forever poaching is a massive threat. The birds are also occasionally accidently caught in traps by local people intending to catch deer.

The future is not bright for this magnificent bird but efforts are being made to change this the Philippine Eagle Foundation see link below, are currently doing fantastic work trying to save a species  which desperately needs our help through successful captive breeding, and finding ways such as adoption to fund more research into saving the Philippine Eagle.  Protected lands such as the Cabuaya Forest have recently been established although sadly the large majority of the population still live on unprotected land. Killing a Philippine Eagle is now punishable by up to twelve years imprisonment under Philippine law a large deterrent which will hopefully prove successful.

That’s it for this week I hope you have a good weekend and I will check in again this time next week !


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