A sprawk or not a sprawk, that is the question

Published on 5 February 2023 at 16:21

A Sprawk or not a Sprawk, that is the question.

This morning I came down as usual fed the cats, put some food out for the birds, and went off to answer emails and the usual morning bits, nothing out of the ordinary until I went back down to the kitchen and noticed my nyjer seed feeder missing from the tree branch. On closer inspection I found it on the ground, contents spilled and one of the perches broken off. Couldn’t fathom it at all, the small nub of branch was still there and besides its too long for the feeder to fall off. Rooks couldn’t be to blame the feeder was just filled so far too heavy to knock off with a wing.  I was puzzled to say the least, this had happened in broad daylight so no illicit visits from neighbourhood cats or the like. Dogs never touch the feeders, they’re too high. So, what could have caused this?

I made a cup of tea and stood pondering the situation, and as I did I noticed something, all the birds were perching at a distance from the feeders. Just watching and very quiet, especially the Goldfinches who the nyjer feeder is for. The penny began to drop. Silence all around, birds just sitting watching from a distance, it could mean only one thing a Sparrowhawk! We hadn’t seen one for a good long while not since Zafira had been a regular about three years ago, that’s her in the pictures munching on a wood pigeon, apparently there must be one of her descendants in the area.

I know it looks nasty to see a bird like this eating another one in the garden, but their skill in hunting is unparalleled and totally awesome. They strike mid-air, disabling their prey by slicing through wing tendons making them hurtle to the ground below, saw it on one of my neighbour’s racing pigeons back when Zafira ruled the skies, the cut on the wing was done with surgical precision. They home in on any unsuspecting prey and unfortunately feeders provide one of the best and easiest hunting grounds. I remember being at the kitchen sink and seeing this huge set of wings swoop down right in front of me, as I watched she perched on top of the washing line pole with a sparrow in her beak, she had taken it off one of the feeders on the fence, so  the idea of another one preying on the Goldfinches made sense

While it’s sad to think one of the goldfinches was destined to become food, it also excites me that we have a new population of these magnificent birds in the area. We have recently experienced a glut of urban spread and a vast amount of habitat has been lost to house building, our hedgehogs have been decimated as have populations of many smaller birds including Coal tits and Green finches, but the returning of the sparrowhawk fills me with joy and sadness at the same time, because this loss of natural hunting grounds has forced them into the urban gardens once more. Gardens where they become victims of pesticides and the other dangers modern living poses to all wildlife.

Perhaps the Sprawk is trying to teach us a lesson that every action we take impacts on all other beings, attempting to show us how we should live more in harmony with the creatures and green world we take for granted.

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