Saturday, January 15, 2011

Through The Glass Darkly

I really thought there would be no blog today what with being stuck indoors by the rain, wind and dark skies with little to report from a brief trip out yesterday. Then my better half came up trumps and I thought “What the heck”.

Sue was washing pots in the kitchen, and please no jokes about sinks, when she asked if I could tear myself away from my PC, did I want to take a look at the bird on the fence just a yard or two away? There sat an adult male Sparrowhawk for about 30 seconds, taking a look around both mine and a neighbour’s garden before it dropped down and out of sight. But I can’t recommend taking photographs through rain-spattered glass on a dark January day.



This is one of the ways a Sparrowhawk hunts, waiting hidden for birds to come near then breaking cover before it flies out fast and low. A chase may follow, with the hawk even flipping upside-down to grab the victim from below or following it on foot through vegetation.

In the UK, research into the effect of Sparrowhawks on bird populations has been contentious, with conflict between the interests of nature conservationists and those involved in game shooting. However, declines in the populations of some British songbirds since the 1960s coincided with considerable changes in agricultural practices and also large increases in the numbers of Sparrowhawks, but when the Sparrowhawk population declined because of organochlorine use, there was no great increase in the populations of songbirds.

Both earlier and contemporary studies have found no effect on songbird populations caused by predatory birds such as Sparrowhawks, and analysis of long-term, large-scale national data from the Common Bird Census shows the decline in farmland songbird populations since the 1960s is unlikely to have been caused by increased predation by Sparrowhawks. The results of the study indicated that patterns of year-to-year songbird population change were the same at different sites, whether predators were present or not.

Here’s a better picture of a Sparrowhawk. The eye colour of Sparrowhawks deepens and intensifies with age, and in contrast to the almost orange/yellow of the male on the fence, note the paler yellow eye of this juvenile female.


My trip out yesterday was unfruitful, with little to report from a bright sunny day: A distant Peregrine at Lane Ends stood out from the equally far-off white blobs of 900 Shelduck and 6 Whoopers. Down at Braides Farm a Buzzard atop the sea wall looked out on wet fields crammed with 2500 Starlings and 200+ Curlew. From the top of Moss Lane that overlooks Lower Thurnham I saw my little count of Curlew eclipsed with upwards of 1000 of them spread across the miles of saturated and partly flooded fields.


From Bodie Hill many hundreds of faraway Wigeon and Lapwing grazed the marsh but I was content with a picture from a bright sunny day.

Bodie Hill

Let's hope for a better, brighter view tomorrow.

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