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Boxing Day morning seemed quiet. The whole village appeared to having a lie-in. On days like these the rest of the parish’s residents – at least the wildlife ones – carry on with business as usual. As I walked past the allotments arrowheads of duck and purposeful pigeons travelled in opposite directions. Finches settled in the tops of the sycamore along the edge of the ‘wild bird food’ crops on the old shoreline. Then, I swear I felt the rush of air as a hawk overtook me on the village street. A male sparrowhawk appeared from over my shoulder, dropped to a few inches above the road surface and flew intent and fast along the lane. Intent, no doubt, upon ambushing a finch.

The frost lasted well into the morning. As I walked the (well wrapped) whippets along the railway line, a female Sparrowhawk leapt from the hedge. She carried a victim gripped in her talons and made her way to the relative sanctuary of the Blackthorns. We followed slowly and a hundred yards further on, she once again took flight. In that characteristic ground hugging way of theirs, she powered along before turning sharply through a narrow hedge gap and was gone. The colder weather nearly always brings with it closer encounters with predators. Driven by hunger they discard their innate caution and grab every opportunity, no matter how close to us. Further on, a smaller tiercel (male) Sparrowhawk swiftly leaves its vantage point in Bill’s front garden Cherry Tree and heads for the marshes. It is not only the Blue Tits that bird tables attract.

17th January 2015

July morning

July 7, 2012

 An idyllic early July morning. As we walk out with the dogs along the old railway line, we seem to have the world to ourselves – or almost. Ahead, a Barn Owl has its usual spat with a Sparrowhawk – they briefly lock talons again before the hawk shoots off. Both predators are working hard to support growing offspring. The Sparrowhawk, in particular, seems to be hunting constantly, his presence given away by the twitter of mobbing Swallows. The Swallows’ call instantly draws attention of prey species and us – the birdsong goes quiet until the perceived danger has passed. Near Keeper’s Wood a single Roe doe keeps a close eye on us from 80 yards distance and then slips seemingly unconcerned, back into the trees. The sun is hot but a welcome wind keeps temperatures down.

We hear news of Golden Orioles, but our wish for a sighting is not answered. This brightly coloured continental birds, somewhat resembling large thrushes in size, are known to breed in the UK and we hope that their presence in the area is a good sign. Orioles are supposed to be especially fund of the canopy provided by Poplar trees, so they should feel at home here.

Barking sounds emanate from the woods. The Roe Deer rut is in full swing or so it seems. Yesterday evening their enthusiastic, somewhat primeval barks echoed along the village street as midsummer darkness descended.

Competition and demand

July 4, 2012

Demanding young are not confined to the breakfast table. Over several mornings this week, the call of a hungry young hawk has disturbed the otherwise peaceful morning chorus. On one occasion the demand for food led to an attempted mugging – a Sparrowhawk accosted a returning Barn Owl in an attempt to grab it’s prey. They span to the ground linked by their talons before the Sparrowhawk gave up his attempt.

Marauding hawk

April 19, 2012

It was the alarm call of a Partridge that drew my attention. Although as a game species they are prone to raising such alarms, this one was clearly serious. It was flying arrow straight, wings whirring and at about 10 ft in altitude over the Town Field. Slightly above and behind the Partridge was the cause of the furore, a large female Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawk was intent on it’s prey and it initially failed to notice that it was itself being pursued by a Carrion Crow. But when it did it veered and climbed leaving the Partridge to fight for another day. Small dramas on a quiet spring morning.

Hawk corridor

April 5, 2012

Tension spreads by insistent alarm calls from songbirds. It was a morning of small drama along the railway line. The cause of the electric atmosphere was a male Sparrowhawk; the hunter weaves from along the Blackthorn in a hedge-hugging flight alternating between powerful rowing wing beats and fast glides. Every few yards he swings from one side of the hedge to the other. Never more than two feet above it, I felt I could see his cold yellow concentrated eye as he sped along. In fact the hunting pass is over in seconds and the finches had all successfully dived for cover. The panic continues like a corridor ahead of him, whilst in his wake wildlife visibly relaxes and returns to normality.

Hunting Sparrows

May 14, 2011

The Sparrowhawk and I almost collided opposite the Village Hall. He was intent on his prey and I was walking along the Street in a minding-my-own-business sort of way. The flight path of a hunting Sparrowhawk is a contour hugging race which is based upon hit and run instincts. This time he failed, after narrowly missing me and he disappeared with equal pace through the Bowery garden. I say he because it was clearly a tiercel – the male is much smaller than the female – and is more likely to be after the village Sparrows than his mate.

Yesterday evening I spotted a pair of Sparrowhawks emerging and soaring out of the Keeper’s Wood in a sort of nuptial display – perhaps I met one of the pair again this morning.