Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cat and mouse

Spent quite a while watching the activity of a young male Sparrowhawk in the garden this afternoon. He appeared twice; I didn't see his arrival either time, but his presence was made all too obvious by the behaviour of the small birds using the feeding station.

Hawk flies into bush; birds either explode from bush, or take cover in the thickest, most tangled twiggy bits; hawk scrambles around inside, trying to catch small bird unaware or flush one out; hawk scares bird out and flies after it to no avail; hawk comes back to sit on garden fence.

It doesn't seem a very efficient hunting method, but watching the way the small birds - Great and Blue Tits, Robins, Dunnocks - react to the Sparrowhawk is interesting. It's definitely a case of cat-and-mouse once the hawk is in the bush (which the small birds use as shelter and somewhere to queue up when they're using the feeder).

The hawk is surprisingly agile among the branches and looks around it furiously in search of a bird to grab. Great Tits tend to mock and scold it, while simultaneously being careful not to end up in its talons. Conversely, I watched a Dunnock freeze in apparent terror at the bottom of the shrub, hoping its brown streakiness would be enough to see it through.

I haven't seen the Sparrowhawk catch anything yet.

photo taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece