[JAC note: I’m not really fond of posting pictures of death and depredation in nature, but, hey, that’s biology folks! You can’t have the squee without the squalling.] by Matthew Cobb The BBC’s annual three week-long nature extravaganza, Springwatch, is starting its final week. One of the highlights last week was the antics of Grub, a barn owl chick, who was fed a live “slow worm” (i.e., a legless lizard). I can’t find a video of this (though UK readers can watch the grisly business here – it starts at 06:00). Here are some screen grabs (they’re filmed with night vision, so are rather dim). First up, Grub (named by viewers because he is generally very grubby) starts to eat the hapless reptile:
Grub took about 10 minutes to swallow the damn thing, partly because it was still alive. Every time he took a pause for breath, it started to come out again. Presenter Chris Packham wondered what the slow worm thought about it and described it as a living endoscope…: Eventually, after a lot of struggle, the baby dinosaur was triumphant, if looking somewhat queasy: Within minutes, however, he was being stuffed full of more prey. And, as they have just announced on tonight’s programme, Grub fledged on Saturday, with a rather ungainly flight. Over the weekend, however, it seems as though the reptiles have struck back. The programme has live webcams on a number of nests, one of which is a very messy and smelly goldfinch nest (they just crap everywhere – it really is pretty foul, stinking and covered with maggots and flies). And over the weekend, an adder came to visit, with obvious consequences, nomming one of the chicks. The full horror was shown on tonight’s programme. Here’s a screen shot that was posted on Tw*tter that gave us an advance taste of what came slithering towards the goldfinch babies: https://twitter.com/matthewcobb/status/475765087022874624 Here’s another screen grab, in which you can see that the adder is very small indeed, and has to try and swallow the nestling head first (nestling head and adder head on left of picture). The reptile got away with the bird, but shortly returned to have another go. There was no tell-tale bulge in the adder, suggesting either the snake bit the prey and stashed it somewhere or it dropped it.