Moss Ramblings with Dave Steel – 05/06/2020


You have just returned from south Africa (Swallows) the weather although bright is blessed with a cold fresh northeast wind which keeps the dwindling insect prey out of reach at a time when replenishment and strength to face another arduous season of raising young is vital….

Then to add to this pitched battle for survival a male Sparrowhawk skits by and what do these blue streaks of summer delight do? They recklessly chase this shark of the sky which at any moment could flip it’s talons and pick up this treasure of our summer which has flown 10K miles to return to our moss.

A Buzzard then saunters about the sky with its own groupies of disdain, a pair of Carrion Crow hounding it away from their territory now although again in this instance the predator is larger than the Corvids their avid disdain for the raptor ensures that it retreats.

Once I watched a similar pair of Crows hound a Peregrine with seemingly the same desired effect of driving the raptor away but in this case punching above your weight isn’t always a clever thing to do for suddenly the Peregrine snapped flipped over in a roll had headed directly at the nearest corvid….the chase now being on the other foot bravery turned into blind panic and a need to retreat with tail between legs saved the day for the foolhardy crow.

An encounter with a life and death scene here out on our own Serengeti produced an act of sheer bravery in which the lesser of two evils was faced and overcome when I came across a young Hare which ran at me then turned into a field …not unexpected thought I as I was well aware in those days (and sadly in recent times knew the greatest threat to the Hare lay with humans who gain pleasure from hunting them with dogs and unbeknown to the few remaining Hare those who wish to destroy their homes by building  on it.

On this occasion the next flurry of life then rippled into view as a Stoat which was in hot pursuit of the said Hare. ..nature in the balance being enacted thought I yet the human in me did root for the Hare at this moment.

The Hare cut back on the road…saw me and the Stoat followed this circuit of fear…it was time for me to get out of the way allowing the Hare to outrun it’s predator if it ran up the lane but just as I started retreat the Hare paused for but a millisecond and decided salvation lay in racing past me within a foot or so……

The Stoat on seeing me braked and retreated as it followed the adage he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day and to chance passing by what is probably one of its major predators, Man, I am to this day unable to decide what outcome would have been the right one….but all I can say is on this occasion I had been enthralled by this scene of survival and bravery.

Another track wandered and this time a pair of Lapwing threw themselves into the frenetic combination of calls and flight that told me that I had wandered into the removal van of life in which the young lapwing are escorted to pastures new with on this occasion it seemed that the nice little areas of pools on one side of the track offered better feeding for their young which had hatched out on an arable field.

Mine was to retreat with care for judging by the commotion of the parent birds I was Very close to their young…my eyes lit on two which in truth were doing as was expected of them and simply lying low and staying perfectly still but to me this mere human observer there lay in these small fluffs of life a show of bravery that I feel I could not show if a tree sized predator was nearby.

Cycling along Astley Road one day I heard this high pitched call that came from the trackside vegetation yes untidy trackside hold life that perhaps fields in their serried rows of crops can no longer hold as farmers are expected from a system that demands cheap food…anyway here in this

wildflower weedy area were two gladiators having a face off and fight..phew it looked scary down in that mini world where two Common Shrew were slightly less than happy with one another.
Now I thought it might be wise to separate these foes and I proffered my hand into the melee at which point one of the mini mammals raised on it haunches and bared it’s tiny fangs at me… hand instantly withdrawn but in truth my refereeing skills were better than I thought for the other shrew had taken this intervention to retreat…peace ruled I cycled on..although admittedly shaken by such a show of force by my 2 cm foe.
Finally there is the classic distraction offered by wading birds that to me shows all that a parent is prepared to risk for its nest— a pair of Ringed Plover found a niche in which to breed out on our Moss. I had been watching the progress of these birds for my bird records and on this day as the clutch had now reached Four the parent bird was sat and on seeing me set-to with its distraction display.

There before me the bird called from a spot well away from its nest and started to drag it’s wing along the ground as if injured and I happy to oblige in its subterfuge followed it carefully away from its nest…Bravery out on our Moss but lest we forget all wildlife out there stands not a chance no matter how brave it is in nature if it is up against a bulldozer…to stop the destruction of these lives is down to OUR BRAVERY to resist the loss of our Greenbelt.

Stay safe, Dave.

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