A Territorial Buzzard3 minute read

Territorial Buzzard

A territorial buzzard delivers a surprise on my way to Hartsop in the Patterdale Valley, the Lake District, in this piece of nature writing.

Although this can be read as a stand-alone piece, it is a sequel to the following pieces (oldest to most recent): The Goldrill Bridge, A Trio of Swallows, and A Triad of Redstarts. So if you haven’t already done so, you may wish to read those first.

A Territorial Buzzard

A spooked green woodpecker has just taken cover in the convoluted entanglement of branches that make up the canopy of a larch tree. As I approach it, it becomes clear to me that the woodpecker does not repose much confidence in the protective capabilities of his big brother from another taxonomic kingdom, for he quickly abandons the tree for a more distant fell-side rock, and he does so without failing to continue to sound a concatenation of piping alarm calls.

Whilst still fixated on the woodpecker in the background, a male redstart suddenly flies into the foreground, competing for centre stage. My attention is torn between the two, my eyes flitting from one to the other, like a camera lens’ autofocus that can’t decide whether or not to hone in on a near or distant object.

I do not want to lose the woodpecker’s position, which could change at any moment. In fact, I am sure it will change, because right now the bird is out in the open where it is vulnerable to predation; it couldn’t possibly feel fully comfortable.

The redstart, however, is a dazzling display of juxtaposed colours that never stands still as it dashes hither and thither in pursuit of insects that are capable of equally nifty aerial manoeuvres. His face and throat form a jet-black emptiness neatly suspended between fire and ice, his breast bright with orange and his brow alight with white. The cap and back are covered with a glossy blue-grey, and the wings are a hazy black. The tail is a tone of orange-red that is just as brilliant as, if not more brilliant than, the breast, and it bursts frequently into life with a flurry of flicks fast enough to fill any onlooking wagtail with envy.

I must say, not knowing which one of these natural wonders to look at is a great problem to have. After all, one can, as it were, go for hours or even days, whilst out and about, without seeing a single thing. Unfortunately, my great problem solves itself as suddenly as it arose, as I watch the woodpecker fly off one way and the redstart the other.

As I close in on the village of Hartsop I am still buzzing about my marvellous encounters, so much so that I am no longer fully aware of the goings-on in my immediate environment.

A whoosh of air, out of nowhere, presses against my back and hair. At first I think nothing of it, but a few seconds pass and it suddenly occurs to my subconscious that the rush of wind was a bit out of place on this exceptionally calm day. Still oblivious, I casually turn my head in order to peer up and behind me. ‘Oh my sweet mother of Jesus!’ I spot a bird, a buzzard, how could I not? It is a giant silhouette, black against the sunny, midday sky, and it is growing with every passing millisecond as it plummets straight towards me.

As I run for cover this king of the Lakeland skies pulls out of its dive just one or two metres from my face. I am relieved to watch the territorial buzzard rise back high into the sky, but then, ‘Oh no’, it turns and sets itself up for another go. I desperately reach for the shelter of a tree, thankfully causing the bird to cut its stoop short.

I follow up with a brisk exit out of the territory, escaping into the rustic village that is Hartsop. If I thought I was buzzing before, now I am well and truly flying!