Steve Lawler forwarded me a remarkable photograph of a peregrine falcon having just struck down, midair, a short-toed snake eagle. Like most people, I am aware of the peregrine´s extraordinary diving speed (the maximum recorded was over 240mph) but I was not aware that it would take on a prey species of the size of an eagle.

The short-toed snake eagle is not a small eagle by any means, it has a wing span of about six feet. I don´t see them around my neck of the woods (our most common eagle here by some margin is the smaller booted eagle) but they are pretty common further west and I have seen several around the Straits of Gibraltar. Spain is a stronghold for these birds, as it is for many raptors.

Short-toed snake eagles, as their name implies will frequently feed on snakes and may wrestle with bigger specimens on the ground. They will feed on lizards too, small mammals and occasionally birds or large insects. They have a curious and distinctive owl-like appearance.

The picture that Steve sent me had been taken by a friend of his and I asked if he could get in touch with him to ask for permission to reproduce it here. Steve was good enough to do so and permission was happily given. I had not realised that the photographer was somebody whose name I instantly recognised, Clive Finlayson. I have one of his several books here at home, Al-Andalus, which is really excellent and it is from this book that I became aware of, among other things, the extraordinary story of Iberian ibex and how populations were brought back from the brink of extinction. Clive is an expert on many aspects of natural history and is acclaimed for his work on the Neanderthal history preserved in Gorham´s cave in Gibraltar. He is also the director of the the Gibraltar Museum which is a brilliant place to visit if ever you have a chance to visit Gibraltar. I stayed so long in there that, when I eventually left, I was in trouble with my family!

I had a little look at Clive´s twitter page just now and could see there an image of a griffon vulture that had, sadly, drowned after being struck down, again, by a peregrine. And so it would seem that a large size is, in itself, no protection whatsoever from these extraordinary birds.

Clive´s remarkable photo