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1999: Sparrowhawk, Winchester

The Auld Hoose

From November 2:

“I was about to sort through my washing when I saw a couple of large shapes fly past the window. They swooped down over the low wall at the front of the house where I lost them momentarily. They had to climb to fly over a neighbour’s beech hedge and this is where a collared dove came a cropper.

“The chasing sparrowhawk caught it and dragged it to the ground. I was now able to get the binoculars on to the scene as the hawk held down the struggling dove. She began plucking feathers away from her victim. I wondered if she would try to carry it off. Although, being female, she was somewhat larger than a collared dove, it would still have been quite a payload.

“Normally the road is as quiet as a morgue but typically White Van Man chose to drive up it right then. The sparrowhawk hesitated then flew off. I had assumed that the dove was dead but it started struggling again. It was not going anywhere, so I hoped that the hawk would return to finish her meal.

“There did not seem much chance of that with BT digging up our drive and other workmen round the corner. It looked as though the sheer weight of humanity would again interfere with the normal functioning of the world.

“However, I later reflected that at least the sparrowhawk had had a chance of a meal. Just half a mile away a farm has been sold and sentiment is running high against building houses on the land.

“Not from me. I do not recall seeing any birds on the farm although it is possible that the odd crow or woodpigeon uses it. With houses will come robins, blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinches, collared doves and, yes, probably also our sparrowhawk. And, yes, she may occasionally lose a meal and occasionally a blackbird may get killed by a cat or run over. But at least they will have something to eat and somewhere to breed on our new housing estate.”

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