Our flock of starlings is starting to recover. 18 months ago one of our neighbours grubbed up the patch of shrubs and brambles where several hundred would roost at night. Presumably they found somewhere else to rest and we saw very little of their spectacular pre-bedtime aerobatics, and things were quieter, last year.
This year they have been more prevalent again, but yesterday morning one fell victim to a sparrowhawk who, having stunned its prey, managed to catch it almost outside the bedroom office window, almost colliding with the house and having to land and re-group. Its mate arrived seconds later and looked on before they both went off the devour their catch.
With the prevalence of kites and common buzzards along the highways we frequent, having now had a peregrine and an pair of sparrow hawks in our urban garden it is almost like my childhood days in the country for birds of prey.
I like all sorts of the wildlife that surrounds us, but starlings are one of my favourite birds with their irridescent colours, even if their behaviour is somewhat scandalous with all that noise and bickering. Sad to see what die so brutally in some ways, but it is a fact of life that there is a food chain in nature and that survival is all about competition.
I was standing at the kitchen window admiring our flock of Sparrows. Allegedly in decline, but not for us this year; we have 25 – 30 at a time. Watching them flit around is a genuine pleasure for me and presents a peaceful moment or two to distract me from other tasks.
So there they were, and then they weren’t. Now I’m used to their disappearing act when something alerts them and they fly off en mass, but this time they dived low and into cover. Before I could ponder this too much a grey shape flew in from behind the cherry tree to land atop one of my bean-pole wigwams. Oh, it’s a pigeon that’s spooked them I thought, but…
The arrival was a blue/grey colour, but a little taller and slimmer than our fat pigeons. A barred chest, and white markings on the head framing cold eyes and a hooked beak. Perched there with steely talons was a falcon. I thought first maybe a Sparrowhawk, but the colour was wrong; no it was a Peregrine.
It surveyed the garden for about 90 seconds, sat tall on its perch, then took flight at high speed and roosted briefly in a neighbouring silver birch before flying off out of view.
I’ve not seen a Peregrine since I was about 13, and then only in flight. To have one barely 15 feet away was a rare privilege. I worry for my precious Sparrows with someone like that in the neighbourhood, but nature is nature and, as I’ve written here before, she can’t be controlled by the likes of us.
A special day.