Dumfries and Galloway on the Scottish borders we've reached after 7 hours of travelling by tube, bus and three trains. Finally in Castle Douglas we were met by Alan McFadyen who brought us brilliant news – good Sparrowhawk activity in his site. Over the course of three days we were hoping to photograph male, female and juvenile Sparrowhawks.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) is quite common bird of prey nowadays though by the late 1950's theirs numbers crashed across the UK and they almost disappear from eastern England. Today the British population is about 32,000 breeding pairs with some 8,000-12,000 pairs in Scotland. The birds prefer lowland therefore they are often absent or at very low densities in upland areas of Scotland, the Western Isles and Shetland.
The time spent photographing Sparrowhawk was really memorable. We have experienced different weather conditions – from beautiful clear skies to heavy rain, but most important we were lucky to see male and juvenile Sparrowhawks.
Without a doubt the first day was the best - the male Sparrowhawk gave us a superb show though the beginning of the day was not promising at all. Four hours of waiting without a sign of a Sparrowhawk was a bit nerve racking but finally an opportunist Sparrowhawk couldn't resist a temptation to visit a feeding station which attracts an extraordinary number of small birds.
The male Sparrowhawk landed on of the post and scanned the area looking for birds. He looked incredibly focused.
Sparrowhawk is a top predator though only 10% of hunting attacks are successful. This particular Sparrowhawk was quite a good hunter. He was successful on the fourth attempt with a great tit as his prey.
Not without a reason Sparrowhawk is so-named; 98% of Sparrowhawks's diet consists of other birds. It's interesting to mention that resemblance to the Sparrowhawk helps the Common Cuckoo to avoid aggression from the small birds whose nest it seeks to parasitise.
After catching a great tit the Sparrowhawk was much calmer. He decided to spend some time preening while taking afternoon sunbath at the same time.
Before he flew back to the woods, he posed for us again.
The juvenile visited the site an hour later.
He didn't stay long but was quite active...
The probability of a juvenile Red kite surviving the first year is 34%, with 69% of adults surviving from one year to the next year.
The second day was a mixture of sunny and cloudy weather with a frosty start. Couple of hours we photographed red squirrels and small birds by the feeding station.
The male Sparrowhawk visited the feeding station couple times but never stayed for too long. Probably he was embarrassed by his short "pants".
And he looked a bit grumpy too...
Nevertheless that day he was lucky again. We saw him catching a chaffinch which he took to a plucking post further away. Before leaving the site he landed really close to the hide so we managed to make a portrait picture.
As the Sparrowhawk was not too active, we had time to photograph other birds and red squirrels.
Most of the afternoon we've spent in the reflection pool hide. Squirrels used to come from time to time, but chaffinches were the most frequent pool visitors.
On the third day we were met by wet and miserable weather. It was still a great fun to be in the hide; we have enjoyed short visits from small birds and red squirrels.
The highlight of the day was a really special encounter with a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It was hiding under a hard woody fungus in the falling rain.
The Sparrowhawk clearly didn't enjoy the rainy conditions. Once he swooped down to hide under branches.
He chased birds couple of times but didn't linger long and soon made his way off.
The next day we started our long journey back to London. The time passed quickly browsing through the photos which brought back good memories. It was a great trip to a wonderful place.
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