Despite the weather forecast predicting a thorough soaking, the day had dawned with a bright blue sky and I’d been treated to the most impressive rainbow I’ve seen in a while. Upon arriving at the Wolseley Centre I’d decided, as has become the norm, to spend the twenty or so minutes until the volunteers met to get the mini bus in the nature garden, watching the birds on the feeders.
Normally there’s a whole array of species on the feeders, but on this day it was mainly the Great Tits that were hungry, flitting back and forth between the feeders and the sparse cover offered by the few trees that have kept their foliage; their bright white cheek patches making them easy to spot amongst the branches. Whilst watching one plucky chap grip tightly to a branch that dipped and bobbed in the wind it struck me how tiny they were, whilst in contrast another fed on the table, right next to a fluffy grey squirrel, completely un-fazed by it’s rather larger mammalian companion. One or two Blue Tits made an appearance, braving quick dashes to the feeder for a beakful, then vanishing from sight. A solitary chaffinch perched in a tree behind the feeders, eyes bright and head twitching this way and that, surveying the other occupants of the garden for a good few minutes before helping itself to some seeds.
Suddenly there was a blur of grey, a flash of yellow talons, a flurry of tiny wings and then silence.
Perched on the root end of the fallen tree was a Sparrowhawk. It must have missed its intended victim as its feet gripped nothing more than dead wood. It’s fierce, beautiful eyes turned in my direction, then past me to take in the rest of the surroundings. I had just enough time to take in its plumage, stunning barred chest, with darker back, and be surprised at its small size before, stretching its wings, it took off and flew out of sight leaving silence in its wake.
I was left slightly stunned by what I had just seen. It really had been a case of blink and you’ll miss it. The speed and suddenness with which it had appeared was breathtaking, really highlighting how well these beautiful creatures are evolved to take prey. This is my first known sighting of a Sparrowhawk (There is a chance that I have seen one before and just not known what it was). It is a wonderful feeling to know that I can now say I have seen one of these beautiful birds, and not just sat in a tree. I’ve seen them at their best, how they’re meant to be, hunting their prey. I’ve seen their speed and the flash of talons that are the last thing witnessed by many animals. What makes the experience even better, was that I was alone for this unexpected encounter; it was an experience unique to me, more personal then I could ever have wished for. It just emphasised how amazing our natural world is and how much beauty can be found in unexpected places. The whole encounter must have lasted less then a minute, but the experience has moved me, and I know it will be something I will remember for the rest of my life.