For the sharp eyed amongst you, yes the photograph above is of the notorious Sparrowhawk. I’d been watching her for some time from the kitchen window, camera at the ready when I saw the yellow-eyed fiend lean forwards. Anticipating take off, I took the picture only to discover that she was in fact bending over to go to the loo. Not quite what I was expecting!
It’s April and since Spring’s welcome arrival, the air has been alive with trills, tweets and warbles of birdsong. I didn’t see her fly in.
Pausing at the kitchen window I breathed in the view. Beyond the birdfeeders grow daffodils and primroses. Pockets full of sunshine, they are scattered lovingly between the papal purple of crocuses and sweet heady hyacinth. I love this garden.
It was then that I noticed the unusual shape at the same time as the outburst of alarm calls before … silence. I focus on the top of the arbour, something’s different. Peering closer, the upright shape comes into view and I realise what I’m looking at is the creamy soft barred underside of quite a large bird.
Everything’s gone quiet. Smaller feathered friends have scarpered. I look closer. Her upperside feathers are a subtle brown, the colour of woodland undergrowth. She’s quite a bird – not one of our usual bright eyed, chirpy visitors, this one is a killer.
It’s the yellow that catches my attention. Not the soft pale yellow of Easter primroses, no these are the scaly yellow of long spindly legs shaped at the end with hooked sharp talons. I looked up – over the lethal looking curved beak and into her eyes. Wide yellow eyes with dark piercing pupils, they stare unmoving over the medieval stone wall and up the Avill Valley.
I back away from the window slowly before dashing into the study to collect my camera. Breathing heavily, my heart pounding she was still there when I got back. Steady and unblinking. She’s got a mean look in those eyes.
A bird of prey, the sparrowhawk masters the sky with speed, surprise and agility. Combined with the attitude of a stealth killer, I often see her waiting patiently watching the smaller birds on the feeders until the time is right. Occasionally the last thing I may see is her long, square-ended tail and broad wings, tearing through the air like a low flying fighter jet.
At other times it’s all over in seconds, a few downy feathers are left floating in the air, or intermittent piles of fluff, a deadly reminder of this beautiful hawk’s power and precision.