Monday, 28 January 2008

Squirrel heist

Either the blackbird escaped or it was another male bird who was pecking at the cherry I put out this morning. I kept wanting to shout, "Look behind you!" in case the sparrowhawk was keeping watch, but instead, the blackbird had another enemy to contend with. A grey squirrel that lolloped across the lawn and mugged the blackbird for the fruit, then buried it in the lawn. I don't know who was the more surprised, the blackbird or me.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sparrowhawk attack

It should be renamed the blackbirdhawk. I had thrown out a cherry this morning and the blackbird was happily enjoying it when suddenly, the hawk hurtled down like an arrow and went for the blackbird. In the confusion, all I saw was a flurry of barred wings and speckled brown feathers, then the hawk was off, soaring over nextdoor's garden. I don't know if it got the blackbird or not. I certainly haven't see it since. I had always understood that a sparrowhawk went for small birds, like, um, sparrows. Perhaps, with the depletion of the sparrow population, sparrowhawks have had to widen their menu. Though a fully grown male blackbird is, surely, a bit of an optimistic target.

I have 'borrowed' the photo of the sparrowhawk from the RSPB's website ( where you can actually hear a recording of the cry of the sparrowhawk and see a short video clip. Well worth a visit.

Monday, 21 January 2008


I have never seen so many starlings as I did yesterday, apart from on nature programmes. They came swirling in and settled in clusters on all the surrounding trees. Hundreds of them, so that, in the distance, the trees looked as if they were heavily laden with fruit. And the noise! The air was loud with piercing whistles. It's a wonder they don't deafen themselves.

This got me to thinking about starlings and I realised that I had never seen a starling's nest. As they are in such numbers, if they built nests, you'd see them everywhere, on every tree. There would be no room for blackbirds and even magpies would be crowded out.

I went onto the RSPB website and discovered that starlings build their nests in holes in trees and buildings. They join the flock in order to feed - maybe as much as 20 miles away from their roosts - then, at dusk, they all flock together again (safety in numbers, I suppose, to protect them from birds of prey) and go back to their nests. I love to see them rise like swirling smoke in the air, performing their aerial ballets. It's an awesome sight.

Glimpsed a sparrowhawk a few days ago. It often perches atop a tall birch tree a few gardens
away, using it as a lookout post. It was because of the sparrowhawk that we had to take down our bird table. A few days after it was erected, when there were a few sparrows on it, the hawk came hurtling across the garden. It failed to catch one, but the danger was obvious so, to protect the sparrows of Hillingdon, we dismantled it. Shame!