On the weekend, late in the afternoon a couple of guys on bikes with big cameras round their necks stopped outside. They wanted to photograph the rope bridge. “OK” I said and joined them as they took it from various angles.
Just then I spotted a commotion in the chicken run. I’d already shut them up and all seemed in order. I ran across and realise that there was a rather large bird thrashing about inside the netting. It was a sparrow-hawk!
Sid, the vicious cockerel who is at least twice the size of the hawk, was cowering in the corner (admittedly protecting his harem) as I opened the gate and went in.
Realising that it was a photo opportunity of a lifetime, I called Toby and Clement (the bike/ camera guys) over and they tried hard to get some close-up shots of the hawk but it was flying around so quickly it was difficult to focus on it. We all also had to duck rapidly on a few occasions as it refused to go out of the open gate and kept returning to the furthest corner. Eventually Clement got this cracking shot, as good a picture of the sheer power of a sparrow-hawk as one is likely to get; see the sharpness of the talons, the ferocity of the beak and the keenness of the eye.
As you’d expect when there were people about, we were soon joined by Smudge, who was a whisker away from pouncing on this protected species when a firm “No” from me stopped him! Maybe he is part dog after all.
Eventually I used the ‘new’ broody coop to trap the sparrow-hawk and with Toby’s assistance managed to get it close enough to the gate to set it free. We then found a dead chaffinch, which had obviously been chased in by the hawk and killed before I closed the gate.
I did say “sorry House Martins” as it flew off to kill again sometime.
Sparrow-hawks aren’t our only birds of prey here. Buzzards are “two-a-penny”, but recently we’ve seen the goshawks again – they are nesting in the forest behind the house. A couple of weeks ago we also saw, for the very first time above here, a red kite, with its distinctive forked tail. They are becoming common to the west of here and lower down on the more open fields, but to see one here was a treat.
We occasionally see the blur as a sparrow-hawk zooms past the windows in pursuit of a smaller bird, but to be that close to one for such a long time was a real privilege. Seeing the talons, beak and beady eyes at such close quarters was something I’ll remember for a very long time.
Photo: Clement Hodgkinson