Country Mouse on birds of prey

What is the sound of the countryside? In Hampshire, at this time of year, it is unquestionably the sounds of birds of prey. All day long, the mewing shrieks of the buzzards fill the air; at night, barely a minute passes without the tawny owls arguing with each other over territory with a wavering hoot. The famous tu-whit-to-who call generally comes later, once territories have been agreed, and is, in fact a duet between a female’s tu-whit and the male’s hoot. For a bird that is so commonly heard, I have only very rarely seen one, as they are strictly nocturnal, hiding in an ivy-clad tree during the day.

The buzzards, however, are easy to spot. On a warm day, it would be rare not to see one. Last weekend, I could see five spiralling upwards and occasionally performing extravagant displays, seeming to grab each other’s feet. What is most remarkable about the buzzards is that when I was a boy, I never saw a single bird in Hampshire. The increase in numbers has been remarkable and relentless. Occasionally, we see a red kite above the house, and I have no doubt we’ll see many more in years to come.