Life and Death on the Marshes

Something up there!‘ Mrs Waterland announces while nudging her elbow into my arm. I look up and see a Kestrel hovering over the path to our left.  ‘Oh yes, well spotted‘ I reply as I move slowly closer and ready my camera.

A Kestrel spots it’s prey in the grasses below

The Kestrel does not seem to be aware of our presence, or me shuffling closer to it, as it hovers, transfixed by something on the ground. I continue to edge forward and then the raptor suddenly begins it’s dive.

The dive begins

In a flurry of speed it is on the ground, stooped, with it’s wings arched aloft like an angel of death. As I try to re-aim my camera, it launches up, with a field mouse held tightly in it’s talons.

An unfortunate field mouse is held tightly in the Kestrel’s talons…

I watch as the doomed creature is carried away over the marshes to our right until, some distance away, the bird settles into the long grass with it’s prey. Presumably to a nest with young awaiting.

Whisked away to feed the Kestrel’s young

I feel a mix of emotions after witnessing this sudden and unexpected kill. For the Kestrel, it is part of surviving and feeding it’s young. For the field mouse, it was a brutal end that I can only hope was quick.  Nature teaches all it’s children how to survive, but it does not want all to survive. I do not claim to understand it, but when I travel the footpaths, through the meadows and marshes of the Broads and along the rivers, I see it all the time. The swans with just two cygnets have a compelling story to tell, of life and death struggle, if only anyone could listen, or cared. The Chinese water deer, trying to protect her young, but chased and killed by a dog, leaving her fawn out on the marshes somewhere to fend for herself. Every day is a battle to protect their own and stay alive.

I am lucky to be able to come to these places so often, and witness the mystical beauty and vast open landscapes of the Broads, but I am constantly reminded that this is no picnic for wildlife.  Nature is amazing. Nature is cruel.


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