Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Stonechats On Ice......Beetle Feast
As promised in my last post I will now reveal what the stonechats were catching from the hole in the ice on a local lake. When I first saw the male bird catch something from the water I thought it was a small fish and as I didn't have my binoculars with me it wasn't obvious what it had caught. As time went on however and the birds caught more I realised that they were catching Great Diving Beetles .
These large beetles are common inhabitants of still water and are fierce predators attacking anything that moves including frogs and fish.They carry air supplies with them but when this has been used up they have to return to the surface to replenish supplies. So this is what was happening at this hole in the ice and the stonechats had been quick to seize an opportunity to obtain food in the very difficult conditions for survival during the current spell of Arctic weather.
It did in fact remind me of tactics employed by polar bears as they lie in wait for seals at their breathing holes in the Arctic ice. It was a tactic that paid off and during my stay both male and female stonechats must have caught around nine or ten of these large beetles. It was fascinating to watch and I hope some of the images I obtained and shown above convey what was very interesting behaviour. I am not sure if this has ever been observed before. At least one of my followers is very knowledgeable about stonechats and will no doubt enlighten me.
I can only hope that this clever behaviour has managed to help the stonechats to survive the recent severe weather. It is now very slowly improving and hopefully the worst is over but no doubt many creatures will have perished.As always however survival of the fittest ensures that many will survive to look forward to times of plenty in the months ahead.