Monday, 8 November 2010


As a youngster, I was very taken with the surname of the main protagonist of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea novels, 'Sparrowhawk', though I had never actually seen the real thing, until this weekend. Actually it's no suprise that as a suburban child of the 80s I had not done so, as they were still recovering from a massive post-war population slump due mainly to agro-chemicals. This weekend, though, I had my first definite view of one; on saturday morning we were enjoying a cup of tea in bed, looking out at the comings and goings of tits, finches, robins and blackbirds to and from hedges and birdfeeders, when this cheery scene of bucolic charm exploded in speed and feathers. A pigeon was taken in mid-flight by a shattering blow from above, and all I could say was that the assailant was quick, orange and deadly. By the time I got downstairs, the lawn was a mess of feathers, and the hedges quiet.

I would still have had doubts about my identification, had not on Sunday morning a sparrowhawk flown through our garden gate and alighted halfway down the garden, scanning the scene of yesterday's slaughter. Larger, darker and more lethal looking than I had ever gleaned from film, this was a magnificent female, who clearly has worked out that we have opened a fine raptor dining experience through our courting of garden birds. If Ms LeGuin's character was in any way meant to resemble his namesake, she must have intended him to be most forbidding. I must admit to being quite excited by the presence of this species locally, and I hope to see more of the bird. I just hope that I can be as well-disposed should it choose robin over pigeon!