Places to Visit
School Veg Patch
The bird photographed below, flew straight past Jan (a neighbouring plotter) and into his unused aviary. It was probably used to swooping into aviaries to steal small birds or pigeons but got a bit of a shock to find this one empty. It injured its beak trying to find its way back out which it quickly succeeded in doing. Hopefully this was just a superficial injury and would heal quickly. This bird was a female.
Sparrowhawks get their name from the fact that the largest part of their diet is made up of small birds.
The wings of a sparrowhawk are broad and rather small, although the male’s wings are more pointed than those of the female. The shape of their wings and their long tail enables them to weave in and out of obstacles at speed. In our garden we have seen one swoop over our fence, spot us and do a quick about turn under a tree and back over the fence.
The bird in the video below sat on our greenhouse roof being soaked in the rain. She - I think it was a she - then sat in our crab apple tree to dry off. At the start of the video there is a good view of the talons.
On the allotment plot, we have also had a sparrowhawk fly straight towards us and pluck a sparrow from a fence post just behind us. It’s quite a sight as you stare into a pair of yellow ringed eyes heading straight for you. Sparrowhawks can also fly almost at ground level in pursuit of prey. Other times they plunge from the sky with wings folded back. Prey is often taken to a favourite perching post where it is plucked. Other times the prey is dealt with on the ground. When feeding on the ground the hawk will form an umbrella with its wings over its prey. This is called mantling. Being smaller males hunt smaller birds, such as sparrows and tits, and females hunt larger birds including collared doves, blackbirds, thrushes and starlings. The ones flying around our allotment site are possibly on the look out for homing pigeons too.
I am afraid I have to confess that I have been known to interfere with nature (David Attenborough would be disgusted!). Whilst in my garden, a female sparrowhawk flew just over my head with a blackbird in its talons. The blackbird was screaming in panic. As luck would have it (for the blackbird), the sparrowhawk decided to land in our garden to feast. I am afraid I couldn’t stand to think that the poor blackbird was going to be torn apart there and then, so I scared the sparrowhawk away and the blackbird hopped under our shrubs. It must have been OK as it soon disappeared without so much as a thank you. The sparrowhawk no doubt would soon have found an alternative meal – well away from my ears and eyes! I’d never make a wildlife camera-woman.
The birds in the photos above are juvenile birds.
Another close encounter was when we noticed the visitor below just outside of our window. I know it’s a sparrowhawk, and think it’s one of last year’s juveniles - maybe a female? It had landed on a large plant pot on a wall just outside of our window where it proceeded to pluck an unfortunate sparrow. It was no use trying to rescue this bird as it was already dead.
As we watched it, the bird seemed to look directly from one of us to the other but seemed unperturbed. It seemed more annoyed with the feathers that kept sticking to its beak.