Young Red-backed Shrike with wasp from apple compote

NeuntöterA young Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) has snatched a wasp and is holding it in its beak before eating. During the photo session, the juvenile Red-backed Shrike made no attempt to smack the prey against a branch to expel the stinger from the insect’s body, in the manner of many other insectivorous birds such as the European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). The Red-backed Shrike lives in paradise here. The allotments in the valley of the Basköy river near İkizdere in the province of Rize in Turkey are full of wonderfully plump apple trees in autumn. And of course there are also many wasps around here, which in turn are prey for birds that live here and rest on migration. I pick a basket full of apples from some trees along the country road; there are definitely seven apple varieties.

At home I get to work, cooking applesauce. I put the bowl with the apple skins and cores on the balcony in the sun, curious who this might appeal to, and to make it clear that there is something tasty here, I put some of the freshly bought apples on the table.

Wasps are coming. First one individual twirls around a bright red apple, then a second one joins them. The first starts to bite through the shell, and after a while the second pushes it aside and bites the flesh vigorously, after which the first wasp begins to eat through the shell in a different place. When a third wasp appeared and patiently trotted around on the apple, I wondered if the first wasp would be the pioneer so that the others could get the pulp.

The first wasp had now uncovered the flesh of the fruit, and the third wasp is there immediately and savore it. The “carnage” made me curious. I’ll get a chair. A little later I’m back with my wasps. There are probably already a dozen twirling around on the apples, and when I risked a look in the bowl I am flabbergasted – at least 30 wasps climbe over the leftovers and eat their fill. Within a very short time I have caught a plague of wasps. And I find that not only amusing, but also exciting. I sat with my black and yellow guests for a long time and watch them. After twenty minutes it am already convinced that these animals are real characters. There are those who push and those who are pushed, some mumbling reluctantly, others biting here and there and it’s never tasty enough for them, then gangs appear, seize sources of fruit pulp, drive away the traditional comrades and shine to protect each other while eating. And there are the real heroes, who don’t let themselves be deterred, react harshly to disturbances and don’t give up on their plan. Some even work together to tunnel through the apple.

Wasps are part of the normal diet of various birds such as European Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus), European Bee-eater and Red-backed Shrike, but also of larger spiders. Other natural enemies are parasitic wasps, whose larvae feed on the wasp larvae, and cuckoo wasps, which lay their eggs in other wasp nests and have their offspring raised by the host wasps.

To meet the growing demand for great images of the rarer species of the Palearctic, has made targeted trips to remote locations. This to do everything possible to ensure excellent photos of the birds of the western Palearctic. The yield of images from rare West Palearctic birds is very good. There are other beautiful bird pictures that you can find under the “Picture Shop” tab. Just let me know if you need a picture of a bird that isn’t online.

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