Successful Sparrawhawk

April 27, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Wildlife photography can often involve a lot of planning. This can range from time spent researching and scoping out locations, setting up a feeding station, researching new equipment and techniques, planning trips, to biding time for the best weather conditions. It can also involve a bit of luck, primarily being in the right place at the right time. Whilst luck plays a part, you also need to be on alert and anticipate something happening. Most recently, I wasn't doing the latter, but a chance glance over my shoulder resulted in seeing a female sparrowhawk take out a pigeon right outside my house. I've seen a male and female sparrowhawk on and off since I've lived in my current home, with a few visits to the garden. These have involved the birds perching on the garden fence briefly and once being on prey on the lawn in the back garden. I've never come close to getting decent shots as more often than not before I've grabbed the camera the birds have moved on.

Fast forward to my latest encounter, which I assumed was another 'what might have been'. The sparrowhawk in question was unable to carry the pigeon it had killed and was almost immediately spooked, flying up into a nearby tree. It soon dropped down out of sight and behind some houses further down the road. Nevermind, but I made an effort on keeping my eye on the kill just in case the sparrowhawk came back. Indeed, not long after I happened to be outside tidying my boot when I noticed the sparrowhawk had indeed returned! It had moved its prey away from the road and was on the front lawn of the house opposite. I had my camera to hand so quickly unpacked it and took a few record shots. I decided to try and get a bit closer and it remained unfazed so I crept closer still. Again, no sign it was bothered but I backed off and watched. The strange man with a large lens clearly got attention as the neighbours over the road were soon at their window and they'd noticed what I was shooting and enjoyed a show from no more than a few feet a stunning raptor happily plucked and fed away beneath their window. 

By now, the sparrowhawk had moved under a small bush but this allowed me to use a tree as cover, and get a little closer. Once behind the tree, I led down and slowly moved out so that I had a clear view. The sparrowhawk continued to feed, occasionally looking up between tearing flesh from its prey. I took plenty of shots and was chuffed to finally see something like this with my own eyes.

SparrowhawkSparrowhawk SparrowhawkSparrowhawk After a bit of a pause just to observe, I crawled a little closer and repeated this process a few more times until I was just a few metres away. My heart was pounding by now and I was in my element...though what the neighbours must've thought I don't know!

SparrowhawkSparrowhawk SparrowhawkSparrowhawk SparrowhawkSparrowhawk

I considered a slight adjustment in my position but didn't get the chance as at that very moment the wildlife photographer's nemesis appeared from around the corner; the dreaded dog walker!! Seeing me led down on the pavement with a camera in my hand, I thought the man would kindly cross the empty street and carry on. No. Of course not. Apparently oblivious to me, he carried on and unsurprisingly spooked the sparrowhawk, forcing it into a hasty retreat. I bit my tongue and the dog walker seemed intent on avoiding eye contact, sadly missing out on my pee'd off glare. I'm fully aware that people are entitled to walk there they wish but sometimes I can't help people do these things on purpose. It's happened so many times and is one of biggest pet hates (no pun intended).

That aside, the few minutes I spent watching this awesome raptor were right up there as some of the best spent with a wild bird. I've always wanted to see this up close and am very grateful to have finally managed this. Nothing beats the rush of such a close encounter and I'm already day dreaming about the next one, whatever it may be. 

On a more downbeat note, these are extremely difficult times for so many people. I've often found myself feeling extremely frustrated and trapped by the social distancing restrictions and can't help but feel gutted to be missing out on so much photography. The lock down has coincided with the end of my a recent contract and whilst I was prepared for a break, I wasn't prepared to be stuck indoors. However, my feelings are nothing compared to those who are risking their lives on the front line in the fight against the horrible coronavirus that has swept across the globe. At the end of the day, that is what really matters. I'll be making do with the outdoor spaces available locally and have set up a mini feeding station and perches for photography from home, so will share some results soon. In the meantime, stay safe.


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