Migrants and mimics


As the weekend passed the air was finally rich with the screams of swifts as they buzzed over the village. They are some of the last arrivals and should have been preceded by first house martins and then swallows but both have been missing from my annual village list. Just over a week ago I visited a local ex gravel-pit and it was flourishing with life  with martins and swallows hawking flies and joined in their aerial antics by four pairs of common terns. These nesting terns are undoubtedly the same ones that grace the Hethersett lakes but their number have been dropping as the colony of black headed gulls increases.

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Black-headed Gull friend or foe? I would be interested if anyone knows of a humane way of preventing them ousting their smaller neighbours.

Having seen my friends the swifts return I set out for Admirals way to check on the beleaguered house martins. They were there but in lower numbers than last year and their nesting exploits were on at least one house unwelcome with gaily coloured repelling devices  hung under the eves like some misplaced Christmas decorations. No sign of any swallows and I ear a trip further out of the village to one of the local farms will be required to see these birds which once graced the village outbuildings.

Swallows (2)

Swallows from last year hopefully this year they will be back.

This weeks highlights have not just been the welcome return of some of our summer visitors but also a less common one that turned up over head whilst I waited diligently for the school disco to turn out. The unmistakable piping overhead was an oystercatcher fortunately I had a brief view of a solid black and white behind as it headed south to confirm the ID.

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The black white oystercatcher with his vivid red bill and eyes.

As I was reminded recently hearing the call of a bird is not always the conclusive ID and at dusk at the end of the recent bird race myself and my companions were treated to a calling Tawny owl in a bush right next to us. Given the opportunity to see rather than just hear this midnight caller we scanned the bush and identified only a Jay. Then the owl called again but there was no owl only a Jay. Of course the owl call whilst perfect was just not quite loud enough to be genuine it was the Jay mimicking the call. I have read that they will also mimic buzzards but wouldn’t have believed how good they were unless I had heard it myself. If you would like to recreate the magic I recommend the following video:

I am still not sure why they do this and would welcome suggestions. My first thought was that it was a rouse to flush songbirds off their nests but there may be other possibilities.I leave you with an image of the mimic himself whilst you ponder the mystery.

Jay (2)

Definitely not an owl.

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6 thoughts on “Migrants and mimics

  1. I’m almost certain Jays do this when attempting to raid nests too. In fact, I once flushed a Jay and then a nearby Magpie from a Song Thrush nest in my back garden. The early nests get hammered by all the corvids (Magpie especially targets early Blackbirds) yet we still end up with reasonable densities late Summer into the Autumn. Have you ever heard a Jay produce a call identical to that of a Magpie, I have and I’ve got a sound-recording of it too.

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