Monday, 11 February 2008

Search and Rescue

On Saturday I had the great pleasure in helping Max (Shadowhawk) teach two very short man tracking 'masterclasses' to Search and Rescue personnel over at Pinkery Field Centre.

We had some guys and girls from the local Exmoor SAR as well as from Devon and Cornwall and elsewhere. We had absolutely splendid weather and the tracking was very good; helped by the low winter sun. As is often the case with these things I played the 'missing person' which can be fun. This time round it was lovely because I tucked myself behind a wall, in the sun, admiring the view. Bliss.

Before I got tracked down by the team I got caught up in another excercise with the SAR dogs! Their training ex involved another 'missing person' who had coincidentally camped out on the other side of the wall to where I was. This meant that my peacefully reverie was shattered by an inquisitive SAR dog bounding in my general direction until it had worked out that I was not the smelly person he was after. Still it was great to see them in action.

Anyway, everyone seemed very pleased with the tracking taster and enjoyed themselves. As we said to them, tracking will never replace their search skills but it can give them an extra tool to use, as and when they need it.

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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Oystercatcher tracks?

I was down on a fairly remote beach the other day, not far from Lynton, and came across these tracks. They are very faint but I think that they belong to an Oystercatcher. Granted I'm not 100% sure but pretty confident.

One reason why I'm confident that it is Oystercatcher is from the bill probings along side the tracks as well as the overall size and shape of the tracks themselves. It is of course possible that it is another probing wader such as Redshank but my gut is saying Oystercatcher at the moment.

Even a simple walk on the beach can turn up really interesting challenges!

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Sparrowhawk kill site

In a previous post I talked about a fox kill (Fox and chicken just don't go) and how the ends of feathers were chewed.

Well a few weeks ago I came across a Sparrowhawk kill. A totally different affair to dear old foxy!

For starters, Sparrowhawks tend to pluck and eat the breast, sometimes decapitating the prey as well (see above). The plucking is such that the feathers are pulled out in their entirety and do not have that chewed effect. Unfortuneatley, I only had my phone camera with me and I couldn't get a good enough picture of the feather base. It is also common to find fine score marks on the feather shaft where the Sparrowhawk has grabbed the feather and pulled it out. Great stuff!

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