5 November 2006

Sparrowhawks at Leam Valley

The Sparrowhawk is a common but elusive bird of prey which relies on the element of surprise in its attack. It is principally a woodland bird (although fairly common now in gardens and parks), able to twist fast and low through the undergrowth in order to surprise its prey - not just sparrows as it happens, but any suitably sized bird. For stealth, speed and manouverability in tight spaces it is unsurpassed.

The upshot of this lifestyle is that the Sparrowhawk is rarely seen, and so generally under recorded. Which makes today's walk around Leam Valley all the more unusual, with five (yes, count them, five) separate Sparrowhawk sightings.

First one flew high over me, following the line of the River Leam. Then, as I settled down in the hide for 30 minutes or so, I witnessed an attempted attack on three Redwings (unsuccessful) followed by a slow pass over the water, probably by the same bird. Later that morning, as I walked towards Offchurch Bury weir, I witnessed two separate Sparrowhawks being mobbed by other birds (first Jackdaw, then a finch species).

Five sightings is unusual, but the fact that most of them were pretty fleeting is not! None lasted longer than 10 seconds, so these photographs are from earlier encounters - the male on the left at Brandon Marsh, the female on the right at Slimbridge.

There were plenty of other treats this morning - it was a beautiful crisp day, and most of the usual Leam Valley residents were out. These included two Green Woodpeckers, a Jay, a Kingfisher along the first section of the River Leam, two Sky Lark over Offchurch Bury fields and a Buzzard which sat motionless for 15 minutes or more opposite the hide.

I also found my first Fieldfares of the year, a flock of 40 or so along the river at Offchurch Bury Weir. Every year I forget how striking these large winter thrushes are, so every year they are a wonderful surprise.


Anonymous said...


I live in the same approx area as you. I'm wondering where the hides are that you mention in this piece. Leam valley and Offchurch...? I'm interested in seeing some of the birds in some nice local locations.

Hornet said...

There is a hide at the far end of the Leam Valley reserve - just keep following the river away from the Newbold Comyn leisure centre (ie away from town) and you will eventually find it. It looks out over the scrape, a few shallow pools with reeds around the edges. Often very quiet, but occasionally it turns up some great birds.