Friday, 23 August 2013

The Day of thre Sparrow Hawk Part Two

Sorry where was I…

So, looking out the window where a sparrow hawk has pinned a starling (one of ‘my starlings’) to the ground!

And I am caught up in a confusion of thoughts about whether to intervene or not. Meanwhile, I somewhat intuitively reach for my camera as I often do. This is nature – and the sparrowhawk is a stunning animal, and I should perhaps record it, but I don’t take any pictures.

Long minutes pass by. The bird of prey still stands on the starling. The starling still calls plaintively to a flock that is far away and I peer out of the window. This I taking too long!

Then I run downstairs and out into the garden, arms waving. The sparrowhawk looks at me with its huge remarkable yellow eyes. As I approach it nonchalantly hops off the starling and flies up onto a metal ball sculture than stands mid-lawn about a metre and half high. The starling immediately shoots into the hedgerow, leaving me facing those big yellow-eyes.

Something about this whole situation suggests to me that the bird of prey is a youngster. He (or she) did not finish the starling off swiftly. It had worked out how to catch but was still working on how to kill. After a while, still in no hurry, it unfurls its great wings and flies off over the hedgerow and away.

Should I have intervened? Did the starling survive? I will never know. It certainly flew off strongly enough. Many I am sure will say I should have let nature take its course; but please bear in mind I had been nurturing this little flock of starling all through the preceding long cold winter.


This scene was – in fact - last year. This year during the middle days of August, the starlings are jittery again; very nervous and although I have not seen a sparrow hawk, I think one is around. The starling flock has returned to feed in the mornings but they barely touch down before bouncing back on masse into the trees, and the happy chattering nursery has been replaced by a group that visits swiftly to feed and then leaves as quickly as it can.

I hope they will calm down again (although it is good that they are vigilant) and I hope that whatever is preying on them moves away. We shall see.


And just before I leave the starling topic: you may recall ‘Stumpy’, the young starling who lost his tail (perhaps to cat) and who struggled to keep up with the flock. One of the juveniles now showing a belly of adult plumage has a reduced tail. I think this is Stumpy with new feathers now replacing those he lost. I think he has probably survived. 

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