Country corner

Country corner - sparrowhawk
Country corner - sparrowhawk

This week’s photograph has been sent in by Adam Ramsay of Bonnyrigg and shows a fine male sparrowhawk.

Adam says: “First time I’ve seen a bird of prey so close. This was the disturbing early-morning scene last week in our Bonnyrigg back garden, when a sparrowhawk (wrongly identified as a kestrel) was finishing off a blackbird “kill”, which I managed to capture on camera.”

Predation is part and parcel of nature of course .

As apex predators at the top of the food chain, sparrowhawks look on blackbirds as blackbirds look on earthworms.

Also, as many sparrowhawks have discovered the honeypot of smaller birds to be found around garden bird tables and feeders, they are being seen increasingly more often in our villages and towns.

This habit of swooping upon birds at our feeding stations means more and more people are experiencing the scene pictured. Even more often, only the scattered feathers will remain as a clue to what has happened.

Frequently, it is the smaller, more colourful male sparrowhawks such as this one, which specialise in catching songbirds. The larger, browner females will often prefer birds of pigeon size.

Of course, many folk who feed birds become very familiar with their regular customers and frequently have favourites, even to the point of giving them names. To find a pile of feathers and gradually realise that a particular ‘pet’ blackbird or robin has gone missing can turn even the most tolerant of people against sparrowhawks.

However, anyone with a proper understanding of nature will accept that the natural world is built upon food chains and species inter relationships. It is these wider natural systems linking all species in an intricate inter-dependent web of life which makes the natural world so fascinating. Many songbirds prey upon insects and worms, so are birds of prey in their own way.

If a sparrowhawk visits your garden, I would hope you feel honoured by the presence of such a royal visitor and thrilled to see such a highly evolved raptor at close quarters.

Many thanks to Adam for sharing his experience with us.

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