Waiting and Watching

Okay we are waiting for the Sparrowhawk.

On Saturday morning I saw a Sparrowhawk make a kill in the back garden, I am pretty sure that it was a successful kill. I have seen this hawk here twice before and so far he has visited the garden got his dinner and then disappeared for a couple of months, he has not been a problem or made any impact on the bird population. I have come to look forward to his visits.

This is the bird on an earlier visit (previously unpublished photographs)

The pictures may seem cruel but predators exist in the world as part of the balance of nature and they have to eat. Predators kill and eat other animals. Starvation is the main cause of death for these birds.

A lot of people don’t have much sympathy for the Sparrowhawk because it is cruel. A small bird like this will die quickly as the hawk’s talons pierce it’s body but the hawk will eat larger prey alive. So do a lot of our birds, Blackbirds don’t strangle worms before they eat them but it is a lot easier to feel sorry for a bird than it is a worm. The hawk isn’t being cruel, this is just how it is.

Sparrowhawk

SparrowhawkThis is a juvenile bird and I believe that it is most probably a male. The bird that ย I saw on Saturday was a male in it’s adult plumage, possibly the same bird. An adult male is a beautiful and striking bird, It’s back and wings are steel blue and it has orange cheeks, that orange colour sometimes extends down it’s breast. I really wanted to photograph it.

The other thing is…

My bird feeders have remained almost untouched now for five days and I want to know if the hawk that I saw on Saturday has anything to do with that.

Seed Feeder

Peanut FeederAt this time of year it is normal for bird feeders to be quiet in the UK, there is an abundance of natural food about but the last time I filled these feeders they were emptied in three days and the change has been sudden.

I decided to watch for the hawk’s return. He can come and go in the space of a minute so to know if he is staying here I have to watch constantly, if I take a half hour break I will learn nothing.

He ate on Saturday morning and so I decided to watch from Saturday afternoon until the same time on Sunday. Twenty four hours in a hawks life.

It was a no show. when he didn’t show up again on Saturday I felt certain that he would be hungry in the morning but… no Sparrowhawk, so we don’t have a problem. That’s a pity…or is it.

Instead of a post about a beautiful bird here is a post about me getting annoyed and getting a bad back.

Play with me.

FizzI can’t. I’m busy.

You don’t look very busy.

This is the garden layout. Take note of the Honeysuckle bush beside the feeder, that is a problem.

Back GardenI think that the open aspect of the garden has saved us from having any real problems with Sparrowhawks. They are a woodland bird and they like tight spaces where the prey bird will find it’s exit blocked. They also like small town gardens with high fences and lots ย of shrubbery for the same reason. They are also an ambush predator.

Whine, whine whine.

The first time that I saw the hawk it hid in the bush beside the feeder and it sat there for about twenty minutes before giving up. Every bird in the garden saw it go in and knew it was there. It didn’t get a kill on that visit but next time it changed it’s tactics.

Excuse me there is something outside of my back door.

Fizz

FizzI don’t know what that is and I am not opening the door to find out.

The next time that the hawk visited it flew openly into the garden, all of the little birds dashed into the honeysuckle bush and the bird perched on top of the feeder.

SparrowhawkThe honeysuckle isn’t offering the birds any protection at all.

SparrowsIf an old fellow with misty bifocals can see them from his kitchen then the hawk can see them from half a mile away. It plucked a Sparrow from the bush as easily as you or I would take an apple from a tree (a small tree that we could reach).

The second kill that I saw followed exactly the same pattern. It is so easy for this Hawk that I do not really understand why it has not taken up residence here but it hasn’t.

Don’t scratch my door! Excuse me, I have got to deal with this.

What?

FizzCan I come in?

FizzNo!

FizzSometimes when I am sitting motionless and staring out of a window I am actually being very busy.

Can’t you do nothing and throw a ball at the same time, or is that what men call multitasking?

Luckily for her I have a soft spot for little animals. ๐Ÿ™‚

FizzThis is gonna be so good.

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

FizzSo that is that. No photographs of a beautiful bird of prey, just happy Sparrows…

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrowand a stupidly happy dog.

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

What a waste of a Sunday…… or was it?

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42 thoughts on “Waiting and Watching”

  1. I love the lovely funny and supersweet Fizz!! ๐Ÿ™‚ and I love how you told the story about her wanting to play, and I love the cute little sparrows!! I dont love the killing-part, but I know that it is not the hawk’s fault that nature made it like that. So I’ll forgive it and find some love in my heart for that too ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ But Fizz is the absolute favorite character in your story!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Thank you for telling the stories you tell and sharing the information you know/learn on this post. I have travelled to your neck of the woods a few times and love it! Now I live in the desert, which I also love, but I truly appreciate your flora and fauna. Looking forward to your continuing adventures!

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  3. Not a waste at all. I’m intrigued though what an unsuccessful kill would look like ๐Ÿ˜‰

    It’s good to see the House Sparrows. We only get Tree Sparrows, which are abundant and here replace the humble House Sparrow that everybody is familiar with back home. I don’t understand how montanus can be such a ubiquitous bird in HK and seemingly shrinking its population through habitat loss in Britain. Any ideas, Colin?

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    1. Thanks Andrew ๐Ÿ™‚ It is hard to say what has really happened to the Tree Sparrows (Us I would guess) For anyone who doesn’t know the RSPB say we have lost 93% of the population since 1970 but it has started to recover now. In the UK they are associated more with farmland than towns and they don’t associate with man like the House Sparrow. The common explanation is loss of habitat and a change in farming methods and what I read into that is “pesticides.” We kill a lot of insects in the countryside in an effort to get the best yield from our crops and when you kill a lot of anything you upset the balance of nature.

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  4. Another great blog. I am spellbound to the end. And, little Fizz had a game of ball. Each of your blogs are filled with wonderful photos and script.
    Thanks for taking us along on interesting journeys.. .

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  5. No not a waste of a day, you gave us more interesting things to read about and wonderful pictures we thank you again. Fizz is so adorable; that face! Nature is a food chain and everybody eats, and reality is how it needs to be.

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  6. We have sparrowhawks here and they have to work very hard to get their meals. I have found dead sparrowhawks in my garden two or three times but not sure what had killed them. Either starvation, colliding with something or even poisoning – I don’t know. I once witnessed a sparrowhawk eating a collared dove alive. It was quite upsetting as the dove took so long to die and screamed but I knew that the sparrowhawk was hungry and cold (it was mid-winter) so I didn’t disturb it which would have been pointless as the dove would have died anyway and the hawk would have stayed hungry. An interesting post as always Colin. I like the fact that you watch and observe and research properly and then tell us about it. Thank-you.

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    1. Thank you Clare ๐Ÿ™‚ I have only seen our hawk take Sparrows. I can well imagine that it would be a lot more upsetting to see it attack one of our Doves. Up until now I have only seen the smaller male bird here, no females. Thanks for your comments.

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  7. Your back door might need a ‘doggy’ flap so Fizz can come & go as he pleases?

    Bird observation is such a fascinating (and time consuming) hobby.

    After I heard a Spotted Turtle Dove cooing outside my lounge window the other day (after a 2 year absence), I spent an inordinate amount of time just listening and watching through the curtained window next to my desk. I couldn’t bear the thought of missing another sighting, after all this time.

    Can’t wait for the time when dozens of little Golden Eye birds start raiding the black berries on the tree near my window. Still can’t get a clear photo, but I love watching them darting around the foliage.

    I still get a thrill with bird watching so can well understand your interest in the Sparrowhawk.

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    1. Thanks Vicki ๐Ÿ™‚ It is a time consuming hobby. I would really like to know just how often this hawk is visiting us. I see him once every couple of months but he is in and out so quickly that he could be here every other day. I would set up a camera trap to watch for him but there are so many other birds that would trigger it constantly, it isn’t really practical.

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  8. I love the way nature works! Difficult to see sometimes but always keeping its balance. Coming here to your space and reading your stories always leaves me with such peace and many smiles. And of course Fizz melts my heart! Blessings to you Col and to Fizz as well! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  9. Beautiful photos and very entertaining post. Little Fizz is such a cutie. We have a beautiful, Australian Shepherd mix but is the least photogenic animal I have ever seen. He closes his eyes, flattens his ears, and turns his head right as I click the camera . . . every single time. Now, that’s a stupid dog. Can I borrow Fizz to show Rascal how it’s done? Happy Trails!

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  10. I’m very fond of Sparrowhawks, and have enjoyed watching their reconnaissance flights, several times I’ve had one fly over my shoulder or within a few feet as it stealthily approaches the next (Sparrow) ambush.

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  11. In Portland, Oregon we have an enormous old brick chimney that is no longer in use but maintained for the annual September migration of Vaux’s swifts. It’s a city event, and families show up with blankets and picnic baskets to watch tens of thousands of swifts fly into the chimney at dusk. Inevitably, Cooper’s hawks arrive, unable to resist the tiny morsels speeding around in swarms. The first time I saw them, I assumed the spectators would be horrified, and that mothers would whisk their little ones away. I was wrong. Each time a hawk would drop through the cloud of birds and slam into it’s target, the crowd would cheer and applaud. So, while we were all there primarily in appreciation of the tiny insect-eating birds, we also appreciated the raptors. I was proud of my fellow humans for championing nature as it is.

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  12. Another really lovely blog post. In suburban Sherwood, in the northern bit of Nottingham, House Sparrows at the bird table are a real red letter day. We have never had a Tree Sparrow, although you are absolutely right that, a bird may spend less than ten seconds at a bird table. Hence our Treecreeper. Twelve seconds out of thirty two years!

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