As of late my boyfriend has been calling me sick note or toot (slang for rubbish) lungs. Pretty much says it all. My lungs are pretty toot and I have been off of work for quite a while lately hence sick note. Why am I telling you this? Well because of my toot-like lungs I have not been able to stick to my usual routine of driving to /from work and days off filled with walking, cycling or running. I have been out on small walks (usually just over a mile – as far as the lungs can cope with just now without properly packing in) but apart from this I have not been outside nearly as much as usual. Regardless of this I have still seen some rather interesting hunter/prey interactions. And so the underlying reason for this blog strikes again. Even in my reduced activity sloth-like state I am still seeing some pretty awesome animals and birds – all there, right under our noses, for anyone to see.
My boyfriend Doug (I feel it is time to name him as he appears so often in these blogs) and I were walking hand-in-hand on our well stomped route to the pub – one of three we pass on our usual circuit. I get the feeling this is one of the main reasons Doug keeps me company on these walks – nothing like a healthy couple of pints to keep you going till the better end. Slightly unrelated but I read the other day that athletes in Victorian times actually sipped alcohol while competing in events during the Olympics for this very reason. It was believed it would give them a boost of energy and dull the pain of any injuries. So perhaps Doug has the right idea.
Anyway en route we were taken by surprise when a grey lurcher burst from the undergrowth in an awfully excited state. It bounded up the road without a care in the world. Doug and I then had a conversation about whippets, greyhounds and lurchers as I was not sure how to tell the difference between each one. Within minutes the lurcher was back. He began bouncing around through the trees like he had springs on the bottom of each of his paws. Suddenly he stopped and looked inquisitively up at the branches above. True to their hunting instinct he had seen a small grey squirrel perched high up the tree out of harm’s way. The squirrel squeaked rapidly as it hopped from branch to branch. I think it was either mocking the lurcher below, telling it to sod off or was actually a wee bit alarmed. The squirrel had every right to be too as the lurcher stared intently up at it with gleaming eyes. It seemed to jump higher and higher determinedly trying to reach its prize. It suddenly made me glad I was not wearing my t-shirt with a squirrel emblazoned on the front. If I had been I would not have been surprised if it started having a go at me. We could see there was no chance for the lurcher – the squirrel was simply too high and the drooling dog simply could not climb. Soon enough there was shouting in the distance and after a few calls the lurcher gave up his prey and scooted off. If the squirrel could do a fist-pump I am sure it would.
Later on after the third pub which we tried to go into but couldn’t as it was closed we saw a stunning reddish brown bird of prey sailing in the sky above us. The sun shone on its feathers illuminating them beautifully against the bright blue sky. We could tell it was a red kite due the distinctive forked tail and white under-patches on the wings. It truly is a magnificent bird and I know I was certainly entranced by its striking colours and graceful flight. Standing open-mouthed I could have watched it for hours. However the the kite suddenly projectile pooped mid-flight breaking me out of my trance. Consequently I promptly shut my mouth and we decided to move on. Perhaps it wanted some privacy after all. I still cannot get over how common they are down here – especially after they were wiped out in England during the 18th century. In the hills of Perthshire, where I was born and brought up, you never see them. However down here in Hampshire they are thriving – a simple example of what can be done with a lot of hard work and dedicated protection programmes.
Finally, on my way to Tesco yesterday I came across a small black cat. I could tell immediately it was in hunt mode. Its muscles all seemed rigid and taut as it crouched low in anticipation of what lay ahead. I stood maybe 10 metres away but the cat did not even glance at me. It was so focused on its prey. It crept forward, one step, two steps and in a flash leapt forward paws outstretched reaching for its prize. Immediately after it landed I could hear the fast “chirpchirpchirrup” of a wren. I wondered if the wee wren had escaped the sharp claws of the cat. As I inched closer I found the cat in the bushes looking pretty disgruntled and foodless. The wren was sitting high up in a tree just a few feet away. The cat may have been after the wren, it may not. Either way the prey has certainly come out victorious in this blog.
Ps. I also saw a long-tailed tit today….it isn’t really a predator but they are such cute, fluffy bundles of joy I had to mention it.