Monday, April 12, 2010

Predators of the Mediterranean forest

Short-toed Eagle (archive photograph - 8th March)

We might be forgiven for thinking of the above image as representative of the hunters of the Mediterranean forest. But scale down in size and a whole new world of active and dangerous predators opens up in front of our eyes

They may be beautiful but they are nonetheless formidable hunters of insects, other invertebrates and small vertebrates. The Common Redstart uses a series of tactics depending on conditions

sit-and wait, ready to pounce on prey on the ground is a favourite strategy, not just of the Common Redstart but also of the larger Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike (archive photo - 24th March)

But Common Redstarts will also hunt from the ground, in lush vegetation or in the open, running at their prey like mini-predatory dinosaurs

When it warms up they will look up instead of down and sally into the airspace to ctach insects in flight. But the birds that use this tactic most now are the small and agile Willow Warblers

Leaping onto unsuspecting prey from the side or above is another tactic used by these predators

Patient stalking is always an option but it is the Sylvia warblers that are best at stalking from within cover, often (as with this Sardinian Warbler) getting the plumage stained by crashing through dense undergrowth into spittle bugs and other sticky characters!

Wherever you look, life is not safe from predators in the Mediterranean forest in the spring!

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