Woken by a bickering of crows outside my window, I leap out of bed to see what’s up. I know they’re upset, I can hear it. They sound like bad-tempered witches and sometimes that can mean a big bird of prey has flown into their air space. This morning is fair and bright and the air quite still, belying the truth of the situation.
The sky is empty of all songbirds, so I know a predator is nearby, and I am right.
On the grass below me a fight is about to begin over the carcass of a large rabbit. Standing over it – a buzzard.
Two crows lunge at the big bird, like louts, juking back pretty quick as the beak comes down like an axe over their heads. Positioning themselves either side of him, they dance around him, calling him all manner of names, much like thugs at a state visit, in an effort to wear him down until he tires of them and flies away. Crows can do this for hours I know, so I turn away for just a moment to find some clothes to wear. Suddenly the noise level escalates into a riot and I dash back to the window.
A second buzzard has landed inches away from the other, presenting a very real threat. The two huge birds take their positions for battle, wings slightly out, necks thrust forward, feet two-square on the grass. In the face of such power, the crows bounce off a few yards and watched from a safe distance, one of them pretending not to care by pecking at a cow pat.
For some moments, the buzzards charge at each other, claws lashing as they rise off the ground, as one, a little higher each time. The crows jig about like hoodlums, calling out, excited by this clash of the Titans. The sky, which had emptied when the buzzard first appeared, is now a swoosh of songbirds, looping across the morning sky like chiffon, to land on the fences and among the hazel scrub, chattering excitedly; spectators for the show.
The excitement is tangible.
One of the buzzards grabs the rabbit and tries to fly, but the weight of it defeats him and he only manages a couple of feet off the ground. Buzzard number two lunges forward to grab the other end of the carcass in his beak. Then all hell breaks loose as the two of them roll each other over and over in a tangle of claws and wings, of fur and feathers.
As they fall apart, one of them concedes defeat, and re-arranging his feathers he rises into the blue morning. The victor tries in vain to lift the carcass, till he too gives up and, with a sharp cry, takes to the hills.
That’s breakfast for the crows, I tell my little green teddy bear who was also watching. But this time I am wrong.
Two sea eagles come from nowhere, graceful and silent. They don’t even touch down. One dips just low enough to pick up the carcass as if it’s a pocket handkerchief and then, together, and without a sound, they lift effortlessly into the empty sky and are gone.