I was eating my breakfast this morning and idly looking out the window at my bird feeders. They are normally a noisy and fluttering centre of activity at this time of day as we all tuck into our breakfast but it was quiet out there this morning. As in the dramatic, leading Hollywood movie man style ‘Too quiet….’
There was one bird out there but it was seemingly frozen, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Oddly, rather than pecking at the nuts in the feeder it was clinging, not moving at all, on the side of it. I looked around and the reason became quite clear. There, perched on the Pergola and only about 2 metres from the Woodpecker was a female Sparrowhawk. The Woodpecker must have been literally petrified.
Being a keen photographer my first thought was… well it was to nip off and get my binoculars actually. This was the first time I had seen a Sparrowhawk in the garden, although I had seen the remaining feathery evidence of there having been one. She was a good specimen, obviously there was good hunting to be found here.
I went upstairs to rouse Mrs B and we viewed the scene from out of our landing window, passing the binoculars to each other. It hadn’t changed for the last five minutes or so, Sparrowhawk sitting there still, just looking about, Woodpecker absolutely still, knowing that any movement would give it away and it would have pecked at its last peanut.
I had a thought and it had taken me a while. I went off to get my camera. It was downstairs so I rushed down, fitted the telephoto lens and just turned the camera on as I returned to our vantage point, halfway up the stairs though the display was flashing ‘Battery Exhausted’. Bugger. Down the stairs again, search for spare battery in camera bag, change it, check it. 80% charge, fine.
I ran back up but approached the window slowly, not wanting to make a sudden movement that the Sparrowhawk might pick up. I’d have to shoot through the dirty glass of the window. I raised the camera, was just trying to zoom in and that was it, the Sparrowhawk was off. Luckily the camera was in a continuous shooting mode, albeit a slow one, this sequence of three is over in less than a second.
The Woodpecker stayed stock still, hiding exactly where it was throughout and for another ten to fifteen minutes afterwards, although it moved around to the other side of the feeder fearing the Sparrowhawk was still up there somewhere afterwards. I do like the last one of the three in the sequence, even though the Sparrowhawk is obscured by the tree as it goes out of frame. You can almost see the Woodpecker’s line of sight as its head follows the flight and get a feel for it thinking ‘Phew!’
Later on the Sparrowhawk came back and posed for a clearer shot for me. Those eyes! I think I would be frozen still trying to avoid them seeing me too, particularly if I had a nice nutty taste.