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Garden birds and their predators


by Richard Jones

[...] when a Siamese cat strutted along the back wall we contemplated the Mammal Society's and RSPB's calculations that cats kill some 55 million birds each year in the UK.


Black and white cat peering through a fence. Photo by Vic Grimshaw.I'm just back from a weekend visiting an old friend in Banwell, near Weston-Super-Mare. Always envious of his rambling house and large walled garden, we got to talking over garden wildlife and the troubles of traipsing fox dung through the kitchen. Disgusting, even if the fox was rather handsome.

Despite his rural situation, the birds and beasts were similar to those I find in London. The carrion crows that craw four times in East Dulwich, are replaced by rooks here, with their slightly less guttural squawks. They were oddly silent today - perhaps they'd returned to their nesting roosts off up the hill. The huge holm oak where they often hang out was empty. My host wondered if his neighbour had been taking pot shots at them.

Although without a pond, frogs and toads wander through occasionally. Blue tits, pigeons and magpies were about on Sunday morning, and when a Siamese cat strutted along the back wall we contemplated the Mammal Society's and RSPB's calculations that cats kill some 55 million birds each year in the UK. I admitted that my two sometimes bring in mice, rats and birds, but the fact that I've seen kestrel and sparrowhawk in my garden and peregrine falcon in central London was, I hope, proof that there are enough birds to go round. If the songbirds go, the cats will hardly miss them, but the raptors would not be able to survive unless there was a plentiful stock.

None of these birds of prey had been seen in Banwell, but according to my host, the occasional buzzard floated over the garden. Having regularly seen these huge sail-winged birds flying high over the fields as we've driven down the M4 and M5 over the last few years, I'm amused to think what a stir they'd cause in East Dulwich. The cats would certainly be dashing for cover if a shadow that size swooped past.



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Gardeners' World Web User 03/03/2010 at 11:27

Funny - a friend of mine (in Kent) just posted on Facebook that he had buzzards hunting the woods behind his house this morning. They get about.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/03/2010 at 21:41

My garden is usually visited by the smaller birds and nextdoors cats, that sit under the Butterfly bush

Gardeners' World Web User 03/03/2010 at 21:44

your friend is a very very lucky man to have buzzards hunting in the woods behind his house. I would love to have a wood behind my house, but instead i live on a housing estate.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/03/2010 at 09:18

hi i back onto woods and when i got up this morning there was well it looked like a small eagle eating a piegeon in my garden,i have never seen this bird before so i have no idea what it was....any ideas people???? it was browny colour,but there was a lot of birds making a sreaming noise hence why i got up to look and say my new feather lawn!!! 'nice'...not..

Gardeners' World Web User 04/03/2010 at 16:15

Reply to Sarahs Pond Life Your hawk is probably one of the regular two: kestrel and sparrowhawk. Have a look at the RSPB pages. They have links to similar species and give identification pointers. Kestrel: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/k/kestrel/index.aspx Sparrowhawk: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/s/sparrowhawk/index.aspx Of course, depending where you live, it could also be peregrine falcon, red kite or buzzard

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