THIS extraordinary photograph was taken by reader David Illman down in Pagham Harbour.
It is not the highest quality picture, having been cobbled together using a bird-watcher’s telescope and a digital camera.
You can see on the left a peregrine falcon sitting on a piece of driftwood out on the spartina grass-covered mud flats.
On the right is a youngish herring gull. The pair are eye-balling, wondering what to do next.
What has happened is that the falcon, the female from the Chichester cathedral pair, has just missed making a kill, in fact a redshank which she flushed out if a creek.
Unusually she missed the fairly easy target, the ‘shank scurrying low into a drain and then diving bravely head-first into the salt grass stems.
There it must have crawled away almost on its tummy, folding its long legs up behind as it were.
Completely puffed out the falcon alighted on a sodden old log and wondered what to do next. The big gull obviously thought ‘Oh, ho, Here is a chance for a bit of piracy.’
While the falcon was engaged on the chase it quickly flew over to see if there would be any bird left over.
David saw all of this and by then had assembled his contraption. The gull knew it was out-classed in any flying competition and would easily lose its life if it decided to fly away.
All it could do to stay alive was to sit down in the mud and wait. David took his photo.
The peregrine was in no hurry. First she was somewhat knackered for a good two minutes, and second, she wanted to see if the quarry would panic and give her another chance.
As Field Marshall Montgomery once said: “Time spent in reconnaissance is not time wasted.”
I always use this as a good excuse as I spend time looking out of the kitchen window at the birds on the bird table.
Eventually the falcon flew away and after a decent interval so did the gull.
Two years previously watchers at Pagham saw this falcon drop a wood pigeon on to the mudflats for her three youngsters who were circling hungrily. They expected mum to then feed them bits of the pigeon as they sat in a circle.
She did nothing of the sort but flew away.
The youngsters then landed next to the dead pigeon and hadn’t a clue what to do next. They had never seen food wrapped up in a neat parcel and could not think how to remove the feathers.
Eventually they flew away, leaving the meat untouched.
An old crow, which had been hiding in a nearby drain, walked over and had the easiest meal of his life.