First pictures of our garden’s Sparrowhawk


High drama on a grey and chilly day in Barwick! The honeysuckle has been full of birds as usual as the Blue, Coal, Marsh and Great tits continue their almost dawn ’til dusk procession to and fro to the feeders. Sometimes there are remarkably high numbers – I counted 20+ Blue tits and 4 Great tits visiting simultaneously last weekend – and in nature high concentrations of any food source attract predators. So our long term, consistent feeding of the birds with sunflower hearts, millet seed, peanuts meal worms now helps to support a good population of local seed eating bird species. In turn that population has attracted its natural predator, the Sparrowhawk, who has visited often enough for us to see him/her over recent months.

They are beautiful and dramatic birds. The most agile of flyers they can turn on a sixpence and fly through tight spaces at remarkably high speeds, all necessary requirements if you want to catch fast moving small birds who feed in flocks, working on the classic ‘safety in numbers’ principal of vegetarian species throughout the animal kingdom. 
We had a visit from one today. It was an extended encounter its arrival coming as we stood chatting in the kitchen over a cup of tea. After a quick glance I made a dash for the camera. As usual in such situations I found the batteries to be virtually depleted but with no time to change them flicked the camera to ‘auto’ and fired off a shot at the hawk that was now sitting on a branch of a tree at the back of the garden. 
Click, flash pops up, two second delay with a blank viewfinder then the shutter fires – bugger. Batteries now depleted, switch off and on and check picture – yes, dark blob on branch visible, trophy captured, but badly, hoorah!

The sparrowhawk now of course ‘exited left’ and I was left with a small adrenalin rush. I decided then to put a quick blog up to record the sighting, only to find myself dashing back to the kitchen and eeking the last juice from the camera batteries (at more suitable camera settings) as it visited repeatedly over the next half an hour. At times it swooped in and through the feeders, at others it darted in to perch inside the honeysuckle itself, but to our eye the repeated assaults proved unsuccessful.
A box of camera batteries are now on the shopping list and the wisdom of leaving the camera on sensible settings now learned, I hope I’m able to post better picks in the future of our new, apparently regular, garden visitor. 
He’s in there somewhere!
High-speed fly pass
Magnificent and in focus

2 Comments

  1. This winter, a sparrowhawk has been visiting the birdfeeder in our garden too…
    It was a young bird, in his first winter, so maybe our birdfeeder has given him an extra survival chance, as such young birds sometimes are too inexperienced at hunting to make it through winter.
    And like you, I have been able to 'catch' him, sitting in the appletree. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to shoot an image so magnificent like your last…

  2. Thanks for dropping by and commenting Anne. It was all very exciting. They are magnificent birds and suggest we must both have good and healthy local ecosystems.

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