Friday, 20 January 2012

Garden Sparrowhawk

For the first time in a week I didn't manage to get out of the house today due to the miserable weather. Instead I chose to start work on a new web project for recording sightings of birds in North West England.  You can see an early alpha version of my work so far here or from the link on the right of this page.

I rattled away at the keyboard whilst the rain pelted down outside my patio window. And then, when I got up to give my eyes a rest, I noticed a grey shape sitting on the fence in our back garden.  It was a very damp and sorry-looking sparrowhawk and it was peering down into one of the shrubs.  Fortunately my camera was close at hand, and so I slowly reached for it so as not to spook this sharp-eyed predator.  I felt like the guy in Jurassic Park who slowly and quietly sets up his gun to shoot a Velociraptor just before one came from another direction and got him - "Clever Girl' he says moments before he's ripped to bits!

'I'm stalking in the rain, just stalking in the rain'

Anyway, I quickly set the ISO to 3200 and the aperture to f6.3 to get the best shutter-speed possible for handholding my heavy 500mm Bigma zoom in the gloom. I did manage to fire off a few shots before I saw what it was stalking - a blackbird.  It dived for the blackbird at lightning fast speed but didn't catch it and, with a lot of squawking, both birds shot off over the fence and into a neighbour's garden.  I quickly ran upstairs so that I could see over the fence through an open window, but although I could see that the Sparrowhawk hadn't caught the blackbird, I didn't have a good view for photographs. After a couple of minutes the Sparrowhawk flew off without its lunch and that was that.

'Where's that Blackbird?'

This is the first positive identification of a sparrowhawk that I've made in my garden and I was over the moon to have captured two half decent photos of it, particularly as they were taken through the patio glass.

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