23 June 2017 | 20.8 °C

Animal Crackers

M@
By M@ Last edited 140 months ago
Animal Crackers
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After a recent spate of animal news, the watering hole seemed to have dried up somewhat. Thankfully, a couple of stories caught our eye over the weekend, and you can rest assured that London’s wildlife remains as entertaining as ever.

First up, a story of dashed hopes and murder-most-horrid at the London Wetland Centre. A throng of excited twitchers had gathered to watch a juvenile spotted crake wading along the edge of the lake. The tension was palpable: no one had seen this rare species in Barnes for six years. But (adopts grave tones of Michael Buerke from 999), little did they suspect that tragedy was just around the corner. Ten seconds was all it took for their dream bird-watch to suddenly become a nightmare.

Eye-witness Mike Waite, speaking to the Richmond Guardian, takes up the story:

All of a sudden a handsome male sparrowhawk swooped down and grabbed the bird in its talons.

The latter struggled feebly for a short while, but the sparrowhawk maintained its vice-like grip until flying off with its still twitching prey in its talons…everyone in the hide was universally shocked, and outraged in a slaughter-of-the-innocents kind of way. The crake learned in the hardest possible way why its conspicuous behaviour was unbecoming of this species.

This sort of thing seems to happen fairly often. Which suggests that rare birds are rare for a good reason: they’re rubbish at avoiding predators.

Elsewhere, we’ve heard tales of another big cat on the loose in the London area. The St Albans Observer covers a recent panther sighting in the Harpenden area. Unfortunately, Harpenden lies a little to the north of the ‘ley line of animal weirdness’ we recently highlighted. But according to the article, ‘These animals cover huge distances. They can do 25 kilometres in a night.’ So we can't eliminate this new beast from our conspiracy theory.

Last Updated 17 October 2005