I have always had a soft spot for birds of prey, of which sparrow hawks are simply awe inspiring!!
These agile raptors have adapted well to the new opportunities that have developed over recent years, in particular the concept of feeding garden birds. This is like providing a fast food outlet for these stunning birds, which ambush their prey in a fast and high intensity attack. Getting good photographs of these birds can be very difficult as they often pass through a garden before you even realise what they are.
Fortunately for these birds they have recovered well from widespread persecution and now flourish across the UK. Sadly in some quarters these birds are still targeted by people who believe their hobbies are more important that the natural world. Hopefully most intelligent people will appreciate the vital role that predators play in keeping the ecosystem healthy and we will never revert to the ridiculous situation where we kill birds of prey because they are an inconvenience.
This is a male sparrowhawk photographed at Alan Macfadyen’s fantastic set up in Dumfries. Alan has but an amazing amount of effort into creating this unique opportunity to photograph this bird. In addition to the male sparrowhawk there are good numbers of smaller birds and squirrels visiting the feeding station, which is located in a woodland with a purpose built hide.
Unfortunately the light was poor when the bird first appeared but the D800’s high iso performance came into its own and produced some nice images. Immediately after the bird landed with its food on the perch it mantled over it to hide it from any other predators that may have been nearby. As it looked to its left the colours in the eye and his immaculate plumage made a really nice image showing for me what makes this bird so appealing.
After a while the bird left the area and many of the smaller birds returned, when all of a sudden an alarm call sent the small birds fleeing into the dense foliage as the sparrowhawk came whizzing through the feeding station. He landed on an area of thick vegetation where a great tit had taken refuge, trying desperately to steer clear of the talons that were tearing into the bush in an attempt to snare the small bird.
Fortunately for the great tit the sparrowhawk was unable to find a way in and gave up the chase. Shortly after this he melted back into the woodland, no doubt lurking just out of site waiting to launch another attack on the zillions of small birds. It was incredible to watch the small birds behaviour as every time the sparrowhawk returned at least one of them sounded the alarm in enough time for the majority of birds to get away. Unfortunately not all get away, but this is nature, and it is awesome!