A FURTHER UNUSUAL ENCOUNTER WITH A SPARROWHAWK ACCIPITER
Paul F Whitehead
There have been numerous observations in recent years of the unusual behaviour of Sparrowhawks, particularly with regard to settlements.
Our property in Little Comberton is bounded on a lane-side by a deciduous enclosure field hedge cut with a geometrically flat top. At about 10.25 GMT on 3 November 2002 a female Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus (L.) landed on the top of it, where it remained for some five minutes. It then descended to an open grassed area adjacent to the hedge where it proceeded to walk with some deliberation, eventually entering the structure of the hedge, which it appeared to examine in some detail, finally perching on an old layered hawthorn stem near ground level in the middle of the hedge. It remained there for at least a further 10 minutes before returning to the grassed area, where it's further perambulations were accompanied by 'wing-flicking.' Having other things to do, the matter was forgotten. Entering a front room of the house 25 minutes later my wife Joan was surprised to be confronted with the same bird standing 'like an owl' in full sun on the windowsill.
On 9 November 1992, whilst tidying the car, I noted a large bird impact print covering most of the inside of a window, evidently resulting from a collision whilst the car door was open, as it was here for part of the morning of 3 November. Sparrowhawks routinely navigate close to buildings at low levels, utilising angles and contours to their advantage in the chase. Was it this Sparrowhawk on its familiar route that collided with the unexpectedly open car door and subsequently became disorientated?
P.F. Whitehead, Moor Leys, Little Comberton, Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 3EH
On 29th November 2002 Mrs Joan Peel arrived on my doorstep with a dead sparrowhawk in a bag.. She had found the bird on a path in her garden and on picking it up discovered a male chaffinch beneath it - also dead. The sparrowhawk was a small first-winter male with rather brown plumage. It had apparently caught a chaffinch in mid flight and then collided with a greenhouse and killed itself. The chaffinch's feet were plastered with papillomatous growth - a not uncommon condition in chaffinches, caused by a virus. This incident occurred about 400 metres south of Paul Whitehead's house! Harry Green
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