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Sparrowhawk overhead


by Richard Jones

I though the four-year-old and his friend were being noisy on the trampoline, but they were not the source of the shrill screaming last Friday...


Sparrowhawk. Image copyright RSPB Images / Andy HayI though the four-year-old and his friend were being noisy on the trampoline, but they were not the source of the shrill screaming last Friday. It was about 2.30 in the afternoon and the wild shouts suddenly stopped as a sparrowhawk screeched over the garden. It was very low, only just clearing the apple tree. This may have had something to do with the large pigeon it was clutching in its talons. 

It flew, rather laboriously I thought, down over the gardens to the short row of tall trees that bound the properties a few doors down. Wow, what a great sight. This is the second time I have seen it hereabouts. I saw one, or thought I did, a couple of weeks ago, swooping low over the houses as I trundled the boy on his scooter off to school one morning. It was so quick, I only caught a glance of it out of the corner of my eye, and it had gone by the time I had turned my head. I'm not a birder, so I was not at all confident what I had seen then, but now there was no mistaking this large, handsome bird. 

I've seen a kestrel off in the distance once, but it gave itself away by its distinctive fluttering hover. Anyway, the kestrel is a small, dainty bird, easily able to perch on a stout flower-head that would bow down under the hefty weight of a sparrowhawk. 

Then, Saturday, there's another (or is it the same one), soaring over the Sainsbury's car park on Dog Kennel Hill, chasing more pigeons by the look of it. Suddenly East Dulwich is awash with the things. It'll be peregrine falcons next.



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Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 17:11

I hate the damn things, nothing is keeping their numbers down. they are costantly in my garden. we have no pigions. so they pick off my song birds, i have very tame black birds & a couple of treasured thrush's. I am sick of finding feathers all over the lawn. They have regular feeding times, so if im in i can foil their feeding on my birds.So next time give a thought to birds we love to hear & deter them from your garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 17:48

they are lovely birds,but like the other comments i wish they wouldnt catch the smaller garden birds.i have one that has twice now landed outside my window with a black bird and pigion for his breakfast,and all that was left was a puff of feathers on the lawn..and have i got my camera ready for a shot of the bird!!! no,he lands about three feet away from the window,a love/hate bird.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 18:20

Last year l also saw one it was trying to get to sparrows in the front garden hedge

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 19:54

We have a sparrowhawk that is quite a regular. Thankfully, nine times out of ten he flies off empty taloned. Unfortunatly now and then he catches a woodpigeon or collared dove, as they usually sit atop a tree and are an easy feast for the sparrowhawk.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 20:05

In the past year or two I have had sparrow hawks hunting through/over my garden with sightings now becoming quite common to my delight. I am still hoping to be visited by a peregrine as they are known to be in the area especially if it can knock a few feathers off that damned grey assassin that seeks my fish and frogs. According to my bird handbook, there is very little difference between the wingspans of kestrels and sparrow hawks with the former being the slightly bigger. I admit I was very surprised to learn that. It is sad when a rarer species becomes the prey but don't forget how scarce raptors became thanks to DDT and other poisons, so we should consider ourselves fortunate to be visited by them and try to appreciate their supreme flying skill.

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