We had never been aware of sparrowhawks in the area until, at the end of June 2002, there came a sudden dark swoop followed by a feathery blur. Then, for just a moment, there was this bird on the grass pausing just long enough to adjust its grip on the unfortunate sparrow in its talon before flying off again.
We were not at all sure what we had just witnessed but, over the course of the next five days, we saw two more attacks. One was unsuccessful but on the third occasion another sparrow was taken and this time the sparrowhawk continued up into the Oak tree to deal with its catch.
For the next few days there were no sparrows about and we wondered how many other raids there had been. However, a week later the sparrows were back again and although the sparrowhawk continued to sweep through the garden from time to time through into October, we didn't seen any more kills.
The first sighting of the Sparrowhawk in 2003 was in April, and it was seen once each in May and June, each time as a grey/brown shape passing through the garden. It did not appear to attempt a kill. Then in July it struck and I had my first chance to get a better picture. The bird paused on the grass with its prey long enough for me to fetch the camera and take the two pictures you see here through the window into the evening gloom.
Photographs (above and right) - July 2003
Photographs (below) - February 2008
Since then, we have seen both female and male Sparrowhawks from time to time at various times of the year, but photo opportunities remain rare. The bird pictured here visited in February and seemed intent on exploring behind the climbing plants on the wall. Whether a small bird had taken refuge there, I don't know.
In November the same year, this Sparrowhawk perched obligingly in the garden to finish off a meal. The light was not good which exaggerates the difference in colour between it and the February bird.
Photographs - October 2008
Rounding off a good year for Sparrowhawk pictures, this bird perched for some while in a rosebush outside the lounge windows. Possibly the best pictures yet.
Photographs - December 2008
Another eight years on (really!!), and a diagonal brown and white flash across the window brought me to my feet to find that one more wood pigeon had met its maker.
There's always mixed feelings when witnessing a kill like this, especially when the pigeon's eye still looks so alive. However, in this area at least, the wood pigeons are so dominant that a bit of natural culling is probably no bad thing.