Monday, March 8, 2010

Dangerous migration

I suspected this might happen! We are at the very peak of the Short-toed Eagle migration and the bad weather of the past week has prevented these majestic birds from crossing into Europe. So when I saw a clearing in the weather this morning I rushed up to see. Black Kites were arriving at first light! The migratory urge in these birds drives them on and sitting around on the Moroccan coast for several days must have really made them itchy! The problem was that the clearing in the weather was relative. The sun couldn't manage to break the high cloud and by two o'clock rain had returned. So what happened in the interval?

What happened was that the eagles made a dash for it! But the strong north-westerlies and the absence of thermals really made the journey hazardous and most ended flapping laboriously across, reaching us just above the waves. This was migratory urge demanding that risks were taken, and not just by the eagles!

Black Kite makes landfall

Male Sparrowhawk comes in: these birds were active migrants today, nearly all males. The males precede the females on migration. But the day belonged to the eagles:

As usual the gulls added an extra hazard to the trip. I saw several eagles landing, totally exhausted after battling against the elements and the gulls. The following photographs illustrate the reality of migration and may be a little upsetting to some:

An eagle finds it hard to keep above the waves and the gulls know it

Unbelievably, the exhausted eagle lands on the sea but the gulls don't let go

After a few minutes rest the eagle takes off from the sea! The gulls continue the chase. The eagle is just 100 metres from safety

The relentless assault forces the eagle to settle on the sea a second time. Minutes later the gulls left the scene. The eagle drowned and was swept away by the current.

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