Hawk Eyes

Will this winter never end? I’m ready for an improvement in the weather and some R & R. Still, at least I’ve been using the grey days to try and get over my December medical hiatus. The other thing I’ve been doing recently is playing with my new toy, the Nikon digiscoping kit, in an effort to familiarize myself with using it effectively.

Every now and then we see a grey streak flash through our garden like a jet fighter trying to impress the crowd at an air display with its low-level flying capability. Normally it doesn’t stop and pose – just flashes through and is gone. It did it a couple of times today, zooming in an elegant curve across our patio at head height, doing a wing tip turn, its underside towards our windows. The grey streak in question is a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). We’re very protective of our little avian friends so we have mixed feelings about it. It is a truly magnificent creature, though, and it’s got to eat.

Just after one of its crowd-pleasing passes today, my hawk-eyed wife somehow managed to spot where it went. It was sitting on a branch in the woods just beyond our back garden fence. With our normal cameras (my decent lens is still away hopefully being fixed), that position would be about as much use as a wheel clamp on a gondola. However, it was certainly worth trying the 20x magnification of the digiscoping contraption. However, it would have to stay put for long enough for me to realign the tripod and find the basically grey bird in amongst a lot of similar looking bare grey branches. I think wrestling hurriedly with a scope mounted on a tripod gave me an insight into how Scottish regimental bandsmen feel trying to control a set of bagpipes. I still pray that they never actually get the pipes sufficiently under control to blow through them, though. :O

DSCN0116_SparrowhawkDSCN0115_SparrowhawkUnlike the pipers, after a few choice phrases that discoloured the air a little, I finally got my tripod legs under control with the cooperative raptor still perched on the branch and looking for its lunch. My luck continued as it remained in situ while I found it through the scope. Constantly jiggling with the focus – it isn’t easy seeing when it’s actually in focus on a compact digital’s screen – I managed to get off eight shots or so. The last one was very interesting: when my brain said “press the cable release”, the hawk was still sitting on the branch but by the time the shutter fired – bloody compact camera delays – it had launched itself towards me. Amazingly, though not pin sharp, the beast is basically in focus. Please notice those piercing yellow-outlined eyes. As I now know from iSpot, falcons do not have any yellow in their eyes, hawks do. There, now you know. Either way, you do not want to be a Coal Tit watching this bearing down upon you.

DSCN0120_Coal_TitSpeaking of Coal Tits (Periparus ater), a little later in the day, one cooperative Coal Tit, having avoided becoming lunch for the Saprrowhawk, alighted on our Acer staging post and posed for a picture. Cute little fellows, aren’t they?

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