Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

Hawk Tales

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My friend and colleague Lizzy (she works in the café and shop, really lovely girl, always up for a natter), shared a brilliant story with me the other day as we were driving alongBlind Laneback to the Farm.

Now, being fairly obsessed with all things nature orientated, I have spent a lot of time scouring the skies and the ground for wee beasties, feathered friends and all manner of plant life (yes, I am often mocked for getting excited over what are essentially, weeds, but hey we all need something to keep us out of trouble).

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) adult male perched on post. UK.

When it comes to British birds of prey, I get particularly enthusiastic. Few images are more breathtaking than watching a golden eagle soar over the highlands. Here in Hertfordshire, we have red kites and buzzards, both of which have exactly the same effect for me. Watching them soar is like being transported to another world….

Anyway, back to reality here on terra firma. Lizzy has seen something which I have never seen in all my years of birding escapades. She got to see a sparrow hawk! And not just a fleeting glimpse as it springs out from the trees, talons extended, and makes off with a squawking blue tit in a puff of feathers, oh no. This sparrow hawk actually flew along the car she was in with our other dear friend Becs, and travelled with the car! Do you have any idea how long I have sat in hides, binoculars trained on the feeder, waiting for the chance to see one of these devils?! The two girls actually got a good enough look to have time to argue about what it was before the bird flew off!

Sometimes life is unfair. And yes I need to get out more.

These resident birds of prey are quite small, adapted as they are for eating, you guessed it, sparrows and other small passerines (a passerine is essentially any bird that perches, so pretty much all the birds in your garden). The males have beautiful plumage, a kind of grey blue with brown bars all down his white chest. They are doing well in this country, with around 40,000 breeding pairs, and sadly as a result, some ‘environmentalists’ try to blame healthy sparrow hawk numbers for the decline in song bird populations. Believe me, if you compare the number of kills between a sparrow hawk and your average domestic moggy, you will soon see what is causing the problem for song bird populations! (and its not the sparrow hawk).

I shall keep a close eye out whilst driving around the countryside, and hopefully will get a chance to see this agile beautiful little bird myself. Wish me luck!

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