This is a rather sad and somewhat graphic story, so be warned.
I was standing at the large window that overlooks our garden a couple of weeks ago, watching a little robin bathing in the bird bath. The evening breeze was ruffling the trees and birdsong was in the air. Suddenly the robin darted into the hedge and as I was wondering what had startled it, one of the collared doves that live in the garden delicately flew down towards the overhanging tree right by the window. As I watched her, mid-glide, just four or five feet from me, something fast and ruthless swept past right by me and the dove seemed to explode into a puff of feathers. A young sparrowhawk had grabbed her and, within an instant, was on the ground in front of me, ripping the struggling dove to pieces as she struggled, pale grey feathers flying everywhere.
I was undone.
The man said to let it be, with a bird of prey the damage is major and immediate and there would be no saving our gentle feathered friend. I couldn’t tear my eyes away and watched the sparrowhawk take his time and eat his fill. It’s difficult to play the role of observer when nature seems so cruel, but the ‘hawk needs to fill his belly the same as any other bird I suppose. I have had a close encounter with a sparrowhawk before, an older female possibly looking to feed her young; it’s likely this young male was her offspring. It’s just that that very afternoon, the man and I had been sitting on the couch watching the dove and her mate canoodling on the fence in front of us. The gentle creatures seemed to be kissing and cuddling and then kissing again as part of their mating play, and it had made us smile and want to hold hands.
The wonderful Chris Spooner put up this fun tutorial today, so I had a go. Love my little robin, will think of some interesting application of this simple but striking technique soon.
Found a very cute doodle on the web, am going to try to ‘colour in’ all the birdies in the garden. Might end up as a cute wall deco idea for a kiddie room or summat. Hmm.
Some mamas and papas, some little wee ones, a blurry great-tit, a frog and some smelly flowers (the one on the left smells better than the one on the right, teehee).
The ever-so-quick Great Tit
Since I moved to the British countryside I have learned to appreciate the wealth of wildlife that surrounds us here. I never (ever) expected that whole afternoons would be spent watching the flutterings of our little friends, listening to the variety of birdsong in the garden and talking about the latest happenings with the bird families that have made our garden their home. My husband, an avid ‘twitcher’ (the very British term for birdwatcher) is much to blame for this state of affairs. He spends a lot of time, come rain, snow or sun, making sure his feathered friends are well fed and happy. This involves many trips to the garden centre for bird food, and related paraphernalia, as well as the construction of bird houses dotted around the garden and the maintenance of the trees and the hedges. In winter he makes sure their water bowls have warm water, refreshed multiple times a day.
I have to admit I was slow to come around to ‘twitching’ but I have been won over and now prowl about happily trying to capture these frequent visitors on film. I apologize for the graininess of some of the shots, having been taken at a distance and through glass to avoid disturbing the birds, but I hope you’ll enjoy them.
The Pied Wagtail
A Starling and a Blue Tit
A Starling fledgling and some sparring Starlings
A Wren and a Thrush
We are indebted to the RSPB’s ‘Bird Identifier‘and I am indebted to my twitchy husband for bringing this little wondrous world to my attention. And in case you missed it – here’s the data from the 2011 Big Garden Birdwatch.