Thursday, 26 November 2015

Loch Leven 26 Nov - A Sparrowhawk Surprise

This morning I watched the sunrise above Loch Leven. Skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over the loch to their feeding grounds, the honks often followed by a loud bang from fields where they are not so welcome!
Pink-footed Geese flying over Loch Leven
Redwings, Song Thrushes and Fieldfares were flying around in groups, diving in and out of the berry-laden yew trees in the cemetery.

Fieldfare in silhouette atop a Yew

Yew berries galore
I caught sight of the White-tailed Eagle's (probably 'Turquoise H', she's a winter regular at the loch as soon as it gets cold) large gliding silhouette behind Castle Island, but never to show itself in full view.  A repeat of the outgoing performance when it returned, again just a large, dark mass gliding behind the trees, flying up to a favourite perching spot, only to sit out of view from me.  The joys of wildlife!

Moments later, I heard a commotion in the yew tree directly behind where I was sitting on the grass. Then a bird appeared at the bottom of the tree, flapping about, almost within touching distance of me.  It flew off a few metres to stop under another yew, and then I saw it was a male Sparrowhawk who had just snatched a Redwing.  It proceeded to stand on its prey, pounding its legs up and down on the flailing Redwing, who was desperately trying to escape the embedded talons. Beak gasping, as hawk plucked at its feathers.

You can watch the video on YouTube here or below (but don't watch if squeamish!)

Finally, I watched as the Redwing drew its final breath, it's head went limp to the ground, surrounded by it's own downy feathers.  Within seconds the Sparrowhawk had lifted its meal and carried it off elsewhere to eat.

Sparrowhawks do get a bad press, especially when they go into gardens and snatch the song birds by the bird feeders, but if there was not a healthy population of birds for them to eat, they wouldn't be there - especially with us feeding the birds thereby encouraging a good food source for the hawks! Yes, it was sad to watch as the Redwing succumbed, but the hawk was hungry.  That's nature.

Stunning male Sparrowhawk, with Redwing prey

© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way.