Flash & grab raid, seldom seen

I had heard of the phenomenon in these parts before, but the real thing took me by complete surprise. It would have had SAS trainers (had they been here!) reaching for the superlatives to describe the speed and precision of this evening raid.

I’m in the kitchen and watching intently through the window as a fine looking blackbird struggles to drag out from the green lawn a thin pink worm for its meal.

It lets go, then reaches forward again for a shorter pull, braces its feet and pulls its head back for the final coup de grace. I’m engrossed and can sense its frustration, as I had just been wrestling with deep rooted weeds from the vegetable bed.

Suddenly a whirl of feathers hurtles over the hedge from the road outside and swoops down on this small every day scene of garden life. Before I’ve time to wonder what is happening, the attacker has gone and with it the blackbird. All that is left of a second’s struggle is a pile of black and grey feathers scattered on the grass as the photo shows.

The attacker of course was a sparrowhawk, which we have not seen here before. Our excellent AA book of birds in The Larches library describes the signature attack of this small bird of prey, which commonly sweeps fast along a hedge and then does an inverted U flight over the top to surprise its victim.

It refers also to the “plucking post”, where they dismember their kill and I remembered the rocky area at the top of the garden where I had seen last week another collection of small bird’s feathers (See Photo opposite). It looks like the sparrowhawk has been here before, while we’ve been busy trying to see the ospreys from the belvedere!

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