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The Duel


A Birding experience.....the   Duel

by Terry Trunecka

Some of you may recall the article in the "Arran Banner" in March 2015 about Terry Trunecka.  He featured because he was the person living furthest from Arran who had purchased a copy of  the Arran  Bird  Atlas  2007-2012.  Terry lives in Tasmania and there was a photograph of him with his copy of the local atlas in front of a mural of a large turtle in his home town of Sheffield.  His interest in the birds of Arran started when he was working  for  the  Forestry  Commission  of  Scotland  on  Arran in 1965.

Recently Terry sent this article to me. I felt that it would be of interest to readers.  

"It had been a beautiful sunny day hiking and  birding on the west coast of Arran, just as glorious was  watching the sun set over the Mull of Kintyre from my tent pitched on the grass just above the beach.

What a lovely scene, the evening sun shone across the sea striking the cliff face, lighting it up, looking  much like the facade of a Glasgow tenement block.  Completing the analogy, Jackdaws were noisily flying  in and out of crevices in the cliff, reminiscent of excited children running in and out of the closes.

Adding to the happy scene, Oystercatchers were in full song in their piping performance, running up and down the beach with their bills pointing at the ground uttering far-reaching piping calls, echoing off the cliffs,   as they guarded their territories and protected their young.  Suddenly !  as if a light went off all went deadly  quiet.  Looking up high in the clear blue sky I could see the reason, the familiar anchor shape of a patrolling  Peregrine Falcon.  What a contrast between the noisy scene before, and the near complete silence now, only the waves could be heard gently lapping on the beach.

Now that silence was broken by the raucous and excited piping of a lone, brave, but foolhardy Oystercatcher, who decided instinctively to protect his family by challenging this intruder to its territory.  It  was as a main player, strutting on a stage, all eyes were on this Oystercatcher as it flew higher and higher,  while the Peregrine circled far above.  When the attacker reached approximately the level of the top of the cliff, the raptor was still way above it.  At this precise and perfect moment the Falcon closed its wings,  shaped like a bullet in a breath taking dive it hurtled  towards the still rising antagonist.  The Peregrine judged  its trajectory perfectly, so well that after hitting the Oystercatcher with its talons causing a few feathers to  waft off into the blue, it glided down, firmly clutching the larger hapless bird, straight to its favourite ledge on the cliff.

Through my binoculars I could clearly see the male Peregrine, the Tiercel, proceeding to have his grateful  supper tearing out the Oystercatcher's pectoral muscles, which were so instrumental in giving it lift to  challenge the marauder.

The juxtaposition was, how could such a scene of violence happen in such a serene peaceful setting?  That  is nature.  Within a short time the Tiercel had finished his meal and he looked down on a scenario returning to normal, the birds noisily going about their business.  Soon the sun started to set, ready for another day."

Terry Trunecka

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