Friday, 1 February 2013

A new visitor to the garden

Despite having pets, 3 cats and 1 dog, my garden is rarely empty of birds in the daylight hours.  Regulars will know that I encourage birds to visit the garden with a variety of feed and feeders.  The bird count for the RSPB was done last Sunday - like most folks, many of the regulars were no where to be seen and with a few minutes to spare the Robins appeared, so they were added to the running total!  Admittedly, at one point I had in excess of 30 sparrows and toiled to record the exact numbers.

All my cats wear bells on their collars - it is an early warning system for the birds and works effectively.  Something I would encourage all cat owners to consider if their cats are to go outdoors.  I find it reduces the amount of 'presents' the cats bring home.  On the occasion when the cats loose their collars (quick release) I tend to find a few dead creatures - it's usually at this point I notice their collars are missing.  I do however always have a few as back ups and they are never without their collars for long.  I just wish I could train them to bring them home with them - I've lost count of how many I've had to replace!  I am pleased to say that the dog does not bother any visitor to the garden unless they bring him a biscuit treat!


Kooki in the bird table
One of my cats, Kooki, is not the greatest of hunters and will very rarely been seen doing much more than observing the numerous birds on the feeders.  Whilst is was tidying up in the kitchen, I noticed he seemed to be frozen to the spot on top of some trellis - I whistled on him (they are trained to come to a specific whistle) but he dared not move.  Walking towards the door to see what was going on - I suddenly spied what had him in a tizzy.......  




Female sparrow hawk
(Accipiter nisus)

I had only ever noticed this bird in the vicinity of my garden once before - watching from up high on a neighbours roof.  She was tucked in amongst the undergrowth.  Off I ran to fetch the camera.  You know how it goes, the camera is never at hand when you need it. Just in time I returned, then out she jumped, prey (starling) obviously dead by this point, ready for take off.  With in a split second - she was gone, those bright yellow claws clasping the prey tight!  I was extremely lucky just to get this shot.



My apologies if you are squeamish - I do not mean to cause upset.  Mother nature is a wonderful thing and whilst we can all enjoy the pretty little birds that visit our gardens, we should also be aware that other birds/wildlife need to survive.  At this time of year, food is particularly scarce.  

Although I live in a city called Edinburgh, Scotland - my home is in a rural area right on the outskirts, we are surrounded by fields, woods and a river.  We have a plenty of prey in the vicinity for hawks, owls and the likes, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this ventures into the garden for easy pickings.  Apparently she has been seen every morning since, perched on my shed roof or thereabouts (I work nights and am never up in the AM!) this week.  I wonder, will the owls we hear at night ever appear?

This sparrow hawk is the first 'first of 2013' - I wonder what else will visit?  Have you had any firsts so far in 2013?

Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They're adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland, so gardens are ideal hunting grounds for them. Adult male sparrowhawks have bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly. Females and young birds have brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. Sparrowhawks have bright yellow or orangey eyes, long, yellow legs and long talons. Females are larger than males, as with most birds of prey.

If you would like more information on the Sparrowhawk - please visit the RSPB website.
     

42 comments:

  1. Hello again - interesting post, nice to hear more about your garden area, have had a squeamish one like this in the past too :-(

    Ah.. you are going to know my answer here, Angie - newest visitor to garden was a female Reed Bunting during the last 5 minutes of my 2013 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch count :-D

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    1. Shirley, you are right - I did know your answer, read your blog just before posting this.
      I suppose to the really squeamish - the squashing of a slug is upsetting :)

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  2. Very nice post. I feel sad but don't feel that squeamish when nature does all these because in nature they don't anything so heinously or deliberately as we humans do. I don't know if anything is new to the garden or not as it is freezing cold here :-(. Can't wait for the cold to go away. How is it Scotland now?

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    1. KL - I'm not squeamish and you are correct - humans are the worst creatures on earth!
      I hope things begin warming up for you soon. It's been brighter here but winds are chilling to the bone!!

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  3. How exciting! In general, I am all in favor of predators. Without them, things get out of whack. We have Cooper's Hawk and Red Tailed Hawk here. I don't think we have Sparrowhawks in North America.

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    1. Jason, mother nature eh!! Yes, these are european residents and no doubt there will be similar over there. Googles both Cooper and Red Tailed hawks - beautiful, aren't they!

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  4. I have a Sharpie that is a frequent guest but no new visitors yet...still too cold and snowy.

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    1. Donna - wasn't sure what a Sharpie was until I googled, another beautiful bird. When does your weather start to warm up?

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  5. Interesting and lovely post. You were very lucky to be able to photograph the sparrowhawk with his prey and your cat looks so cute in the birdhouse. When I'm walking in the morning with Snarf in our surroundings I sometimes see a sparrowhawk, but I never met one in my garden.

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    1. Janneke, thank you. There is a saying here...
      'Cute as a cage of monkeys' - meaning smart and nothing much gets past them. That's just how cute Kooki is - he has been on this earth before, we are sure :)
      Does Snarf bother much about the birds? My dog Oscar is oblivious to them.

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  6. Thanks for visiting my blog, lovely to meet new people!
    We have had sparrow hawks whizzing round the house to help themselves to a bird on the bird table, not nice but they have to stay alive. We tend to see them more when they are feeding their young a bit later in the year.
    Not in the garden, but in the field next door, we saw a white pheasant, no photo, he didn't stay long.

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    1. Pauling, you are welcome and thanks for returning that visit. I like to meet new people too!
      Wow, a white pheasant, pity you didn't get a snap. Maybe next time!

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  7. We have buzzards here rather than sparrowhawks though they rarely make an appearance in the garden. Great to have a shot of that moment......one to remember for sure!

    Sorry that you couldn't source Jelena - Arnold's Promise seems to be the favourite just now in the GC's.

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    1. Rosie, those buzzards must be quite a sight. I suspect there will be some around here too.
      I'll get one eventually, just going to be a case of in the right place at the right time I suspect!

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  8. Great shot you got! I am always a bit worried when I see a hawk in our garden - it makes me wonder what they are hunting. Good idea about the little bell on your kitties.

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    1. Thanks HolleyGarden - it does make you wonder. When I told mum - she asked, will the take the cats? Bless her :)

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  9. Great photo of the sparrowhawk. Now all you have to do is to put a bell on it. Problem solved.
    Seriously though, I read somewhere that having a sparrowhawk visit the garden is a sign that you are successfully attracting lots of birds into your garden. It can be upsetting to see them catch their prey, but that's nature for you.

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    1. Crystal, I wouldn't fancy my chances trying to get a bell round it's neck :)
      Yes, nature is cruel but we humans are even worse!

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  10. WOW. Just wonderful, well not for the peedie bird, but circle of life and all that I guess.

    Not sure we get these here, maybe we do? Normally see things like owls and hen harriers but don't think I've ever seen a sparrow hawk here and certainly NOT in the garden!

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    1. Had to look up what 'peedie' was - I knew I had heard it before. Translation for anyone else reading, means small :)
      According to my RSPB book they are not resident up there. Aren't owls the most beautiful creatures. One of our drivers at work the other night told me he had hit an owl round where we work. I made him go back and check it wasn't lying hurt in the road. I think they are sturdy birds, so hopefully it was just stunned for a moment as there was no sign of it.

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  11. For the first time ever I've had crows in my gardens. It might have something to do with the dormant seeding I did a while back.

    Great picture of the sparrowhawk and may many more critters find their way to your gardens.

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    1. Nicholas, don't often see crows here but you are right they are probably after the seed. Winter is a hard time for birds!
      Thanks for visiting :)

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  12. Hi Angie. Thanks for stopping by and I am following now. To answer your question, I think most recommend the ammonia water spray for slugs to be 1-10. Sorry if I wrote vinegar, I use that mostly for cleaning although people use that also for slugs. I just like the ammonia better after trying both.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  13. Cher, thanks ever so much. I'll see if I can source ammonia and give it a go. Never heard that tip before. I may even consider doing a little test with 3 hostas, with, without and an alternative and compare results. Thanks again x

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  14. Wow A Sparrow Hawk in your Garden? Watch it! Cats and all.

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    1. Catharine - it certainly was quite a sight! Whilst it is too small to prey on the cats - I suspect if it was hungry enough it would have a go!

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  15. I think myself quite lucky if I manage to get a good shot of birds, sometimes they are just too quick. Gosh you are lucky your pets are well trained with birds, mine loves to chase them out of his territory.

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    1. I'm not the greatest of catching good pictures either Karen - so more of a lucky shot really! They really aren't that well trained but they don't seem to be so territorial as yours do!

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  16. You were lucky to get the shot of the cat in the birdhouse too! Cute pic - looks remarkably like one of my feline bird-murderers (but it's his small, more aggressive sister the birds really need to look out for).

    You did better than me on the garden birdwatch front - all we had were a few pigeons, a robin, a blackbird, a couple of herring gulls (in landlocked Brum?) a magpie and some crows - but even that sounds better than some reports I've read.

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    1. Lucky to get a shot of Kooki in there - it's usually one of his brothers that's in it and he is like your little girl - the real hunter.
      Yes, some of the reports I've read too were not so great. Gulls in Brum!! Strange, eh?

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  17. Angie - Great shot, very well captured by yourself and the sparrow-hawk. Kooki striking a great pose. A new visitor to our garden a while back was a Peregrine Falcon, visited two days in a row and never seen again..

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    1. alistair, that Peregrine Falcon must have been some sight - I hope it comes back for another visit :)

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  18. Many congratulations on getting that photo! We are seeing a fair amount of owl action here at the moment, but it is all a bit too distant to get a decent photo, which is as well since I'm a little bit squeamish. I'm fine with your photo, but if I had been with you when you took it, I would have screamed. Pathetic. I do the same when I accidentally kill a slug.

    Kooki looks very cute in the birdhouse.

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    1. A shame you can't get a decent pic of the owls. We can only hear them! I'm not squeamish especially when it comes to killing slugs!

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  19. Great post! We are fortunate to have Cooper hawks and also Barred Owls that nest on our property. The hawks are magnificent when they fly across the sky, and I most of all enjoy the strange calls the owls make when they call to each other. We also have a cat. She is a great hunter and has reduced the population of both voles and ground squirrels, which are both problems in my garden. I worry about the birds. She is not so successful at catching them, but I am considering a bell collar for her, at least through nesting season.

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    1. It must be great to have those creatures nest on your property. Amazing!!
      Yes, you should consider getting a bell at least for nesting season - you wouldn't want to do it permanently if you rely on her to rid you of other pests.

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  20. Any new birds? I put out lots of bird-food today as tomorrow we are expecting to have a historic snow-storm here in NJ.

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    1. KL - I hope the snow wasn't too bad. We were supposed to have snow this weekend but it didn't appear.

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  21. Blimey - took me several minutes to scroll to the bottom of all these comments.....but SO pleased about all those sparrows.

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    1. Yes, this has been a very popular blog Catharine :)
      We do have lots of sparrows visiting - I think the decline is seen more in the South of England.

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