29 January, 2011

Sparrowhawk visit

Our garden is regularly visited by a female sparrowhawk. I rarely see her catch anything, although she has some considerable success with the large local population of wood pigeons if the little clusters of feathers that occasionally appear on the lawn are anything to go by.

She is usually a challenge to photograph, as a hunting sparrowhawk moves at a speed that makes greased lightning look sluggish. My normal view of her is a glimpse of a feathered blur erupting over the hedge, raising a flurry of blackbirds and finches and blue tits ahead of her like a cloud of dust from a broom, and then exiting equally precipitously over the other hedge, transit time measured in seconds.

This time, however, I happened to glance out of the window and there she was sitting on the patio, looking ruffled and somewhat miffed. My guess is that whatever she was chasing performed a handbrake turn round the corner of the house (at least one of the local blackbirds is a dab hand at this manoeuvre), and she failed to make the turn and crash-landed.

She was evidently unhurt, because after a few minutes she stretched her wings, shook her feathers back into order and flew away. But for once she sat still long enough for me to find my camera.

Isn't she beautiful?


Elizabeth said...

Love! when these things happen to us! While home in VA for Christmas, I was hearing quite a ruckus coming from one of the bushes behind my mom's house and took a peek out to see the branches full of female cardinals and one bright red male sitting in the middle of all of them with his chest puffed out and generally creating havoc. I liked to think I could see the satisfaction in his eyes.

Rick said...

Yes, she is!

How big is she? The angle of the image, perhaps, made me first think she was a small bird, even a fledgling (unlikely this time of year, I imagine). I did a sort of double take when I read the post and realized she was a hawk.

Nicola Griffith said...

She is beautiful. And definitely peeved :)

Carla said...

Elizabeth - hello and welcome! That male cardinal must have been having the time of his life :-)

Rick - About 15 inches long including the tail. Sitting on the patio like that, she'd stand a bit under a foot tall from feet to the top of her head. The angle probably is deceptive. I didn't want to get too close and alarm her into flying off before she felt ready. The shot was taken a few weeks ago (January has been one of those months), and yes, fledglings would be very unusual at this time of year. A few years ago an enterprising blackbird in Norwich nested in the municipal Christmas tree in the town square, so the council had to leave it up until the chicks fledged some time in February, to the mild amusement of the local paper. That's the earliest I can think of for fledglings.

Nicola - if I'm correct and she had just crash-landed, she had every right to be peeved :-)

Rick said...

I'm sure that male cardinal was suffering from no issues of low self esteem!

I'm sure it was entirely the angle that made the sparrowhawk look small (and the paving bricks under her provide no obvious scale). Hawks more usually look down at us than vice versa!

Her annoyance was probably some blackbird's relief!

Carla said...

Yes, male cardinals probably dream of situations like that :-)

I should have mentioned the scale in the original post.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Aww, she's cute.

Though I suppose 'ferocious' would be more to her liking. ;)

Carla said...

Gabriele - yes, I think 'ferocious' would be more to her taste :-) It suits those talons and that beak, too; I shouldn't like to annoy her,

Kathryn Warner said...

She's gorgeous!