Monday, 18 January 2010

Sparrowhawk celebrates the end of the cold snap

The Snow has melted and even the thick ice on the ponds and drainage ditches has gone. Daytime temperature has returned to +10 degrees C, and the winter that some had called the beginning of the next ice age now seems just a distant memory. I really find it amazing that we who live in England have not come to terms yet with that thing called weather!Yesterday (Sunday), I went for a walk to my local woods. Lovely sunny, warm winter day which brought the Birds out singing, such as Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Coal Tit and yes Goldcrests seemingly everywhere (they made it through). Still some Redwings and Fieldfares but nowhere near the number we had during the Snow. On this weekend for the past 5 years I have sat in the same place looking up through the woodland canopy hoping to see the flight and display of the female Sparrowhawks. Well as you can see by these awful pictures this one did not let me down. On previous years I could have seen more than one displaying over the wood, but not this year. Indeed my garden has not been visited by Sparrowhawk for well over a year, this is unusual as we would have had going back 2 years ago, a fly by at least once a day. Our local Sparrs are certainly not as numerous as they were.

Now is this not a stunning bird! The poor Sparrowhawk, has been the subject of what I call "Hate animal of the month campaigns" simply because of what it does to survive, in that I mean it eats Birds. Predators have to eat and prey get eaten. Dinosaurs did it and nobody was there to moan, yet now it seems if we see a predator doing what evolution designed it to do, at least some us think it is wrong and we should interfere by culling the predator. There is nothing more special within our fantastic British countryside than the sight of Sparrowhawk flying low to the ground and then at break neck speed whipping up over the top of hedgerow and making a kill, anyone who likes hunting should be in awe at something far more skillful than they could ever be, and anyone who loves nature should marvel at the fact that millions of years of predator versus prey evolution just played out right in front of them. Long may the Sparrowhawk reign as the Queen of the Wood and Hedgerow, and whilst lots of my birder friends will be in awe at Goshawk displays this year. I will be in extra awe at our Sparrowhawks as this will be a tough year for them. My humble apologies about the quality of pictures these are a record of what I saw and not photographs :)

For more information about Sparrowhawk and other Birds of Prey and Owls visit

An excellent website with live footage of Sparrowhawk go to


Gaina said...

They are far better pictures of a Spar that I have managed yet! :)

Anyone who's 'iffey' about birds of prey should go out for a Day's hawking and they'd be converted. I've only been out once since I did my falconry course umpteen years ago but my goodness, it was exciting! :D

I think if humans could get their heads round the fact that we are basically just animals too and that despite our 'civilization' we are still part of the same web, that might make them less inclined to persecute and animal for simply being itself. Oh well, I can dream :).

It's odd that your Spar activity has gone down while mine has gone up significantly! I see the male more often that the female at the moment, but they can be seen either in my garden or flying over it a few times a week.

Gill B said...

Beautiful birds and welcome visitors in my garden. If I lay out a buffet for them I can expect them to call once in a while!

Chris Sperring said...

Thanks Gill great comment. And spot on its the celebration of your garden that becomes complete with this birds arrival.

Chris Sperring said...

Gaina. Thanks for the thumbs up with the pictures. Next sunny day I will go back and see if I can get better. She is not performing on dull days. You are quite right about the differences, as in you have them, yet they are missing from us at the moment. It happens localised rises and falls of population are quite normal and nothing to worry about unless the trend downwards is extended into other areas and over a long period of time. Any news on your Woodpecker vid?

Stevie Evans ( owler ) said...

Hi Chris
Read that the snow was delaying your Leo survey.
We've had males wing clapping much earlier than usual; since 21st Dec with "song" from 10th Jan (poss earlier).
Pair in duet ths Sunday untill barking dog fox entered their wood.
Plenty of activity straight off at dusk, birds obviously in no hurry to get out & hunt, even with all the snow & cold.
(4 sites at 50m/asl, the other at 250m/asl)
All the best,
Stevie Evans, Co.Durham.
(ps - nice to read about the sun & bird song - freezing fog here today.)

Chris Sperring said...

Hi Steve. Nice to hear from you. Interestingly Otus was calling and wingclapping right throughout Dec 09, still going now. The delay to the start of the survey was the Snow last year, FEB 09, we are on target and ready to go. The problem with the Snow last year was organising 30 people with Snow and Ice on the ground was a non starter for H/S reasons. Hoping to come and see wonderful Durham sometime, you will have to give me a tour, if you are around.

Gaina said...

Chris, I have wittled the video down to about three minutes so I hope to get something uploaded to Vimeo by the weekend - I'll tweet when it's ready! haha

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.Your pictures captures the essence of the bird.