Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The All-New ‘Terror of Tobermory’

A lean and mean killing machine is currently scaring the daylights out of every bird in Tobermory, having taken up temporary residence in a former church building on Main Street. In the shape of a pair of blood thirsty Peregrine Falcons, the Isle of Mull has a contender to rival the White-tailed Eagle for the title of the island’s predator-in-chief. If the island’s eagles are the Rolls-Royce among British birds, then the Peregrine’s strength, beauty and speed mark it out as something of a Ferrari.

The burden of celebrity weighs easily on the muscular shoulders of these majestic falcons, as Peregrines have been something of a cause celebre since their super-recovery from organo-chlorine pollution in the 1950’s and ’60’s. Threatened with extinction, this large and powerful raptor is, once again, widespread as a breeding species throughout much of Britain. However, despite huge areas of suitable habitat on Mull and with food availability not an issue, the Peregrine remains a rare local breeder on the island.

The town’s Feral Pigeons are not the most popular of the island’s rich assortment of birds, but they are very much to the liking of Mull’s Gruesome Twosome, who expend a lot of their energy in hot pursuit of these tasty Tobermory takeaways. Feral Pigeons are prolific breeders and already they will have young squabs in dusty recesses of the former Free Church, thus ensuring a continuing supply of future quarry for the town’s avian street fighters.

Birds as small as the tiny Goldcrest (9 cm/7 g), and as large as Mallard (62 cm/1500 g) make up the range of a Peregrine’s diet, although medium-sized birds, like pigeons, tend to be favoured. The Tobermory birds have even taken to harassing passing White-tailed Eagles! Primarily a diurnal hunter, fresh evidence has found that Peregrines are also adept at seeking out their prey under the light of Mull’s silvery moon, as highlighted on a recent BBC 'AutumnWatch' programme. One keen-eyed observer on the island witnessed one of these apex predators chasing bats at night and it seems that Peregrines will turn their hunting skills to plucking other nocturnal feeders, as well as migrating birds, as they overfly the island.

The Peregrine is regarded as the fastest moving bird on the planet, apparently capable of reaching anything up to 220 m.p.h. (depending on which author you believe!) during one of it’s death-defying stoops after prey. Special baffles on the bird’s nostrils allow Peregrines to breath when diving at such speed. We have a penchant on the Isle of Mull for anthropomorphising our wildlife, but, as far as we know, none of Tobermory’s pigeons are called Usain Bolt or, even, Allan Wells!

No comments:

Post a Comment