My trio of nature surprises

An encounter with a sparrowhawk was one of a trio of nature surprises for Pam Taylor.

An encounter with a sparrowhawk was one of a trio of nature surprises for Pam Taylor. - Credit:

Nature: Pam Taylor has a series of nature surprises.

Even living where I do, on the edge of a nature reserve, you don't expect to walk out of your gate and come face to face with two red deer stags. That's what happened this morning though, and it took the dog by surprise too!

My reaction was to freeze, but Izzy went into full protection mode; barking and starting to chase them. Stopped by my shout and a realisation of their size, she returned to my side, but the deer were already spooked. Looking back over their shoulders to assess if we would follow, they trotted off down a path towards the marshes and disappeared into the surrounding trees.

The stags in question were both mature individuals with full sets of antlers, so were magnificent creatures. There's at least one older and bigger stag in the area, because I've seen him, but these two will be strong contenders in this autumn's rut. Before then however, they will lose the current antlers and grow an even more impressive pair each. Since a pair of large antlers can weigh a stone or more, this represents a huge investment of resources.

My second surprise happened just after this as I was busy in the garden. Over four years ago now, I acquire half a dozen button quail as pets. All but one of these has died of old age since, but one male remains. He makes a range of different sounds, one of which resembles the mewing call of a bird of prey. I was still surprised however, to hear my tiny bird reply in response to a buzzard crying in the distance. Every time the buzzard called, the tiny quail did too.

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Finally, just as I was writing this column, I spotted a bird gliding into the trees on the far side of the marsh. Its shape drew my attention immediately and a quick look through the binoculars that are always next to me on the desk, confirmed the identification of sparrowhawk. As I continued to watch, it took off from its perch and flew straight towards the house. I thought it was heading for a crash, but it swept upwards right in front of my window to sail over the roof.

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