Almost a whole month since Wales and, well we've been birding somewhere more adventurous once which was Pulborough! It was the awards ceremony for the Nature Photographer of the year competition, where I had won 1st, 2nd and highly commended prizes, I am very proud of this achievement. Anyway Warnham was engraved so Warnham it was. It turned out that after the ceremony, the pictures I came out with after walking around the reserve for a couple of hours were very pleasing, so a great photographic day. It was great birdwatching wise too, with some great birds seen, and a thrilling encounter with one of my favourite birds- the Sparrowhawk.
As I waited for mum, dad and nan to finish their lunch in the new Cafe, I was decided to go and wait in the first hide. At first glance it was very quiet in the way of birds with 2 adult winter Black-headed Gulls, 2 adult Mute Swans with 4 Cygnets (which showed very well later, letting me get some good shots of them), 2 Great-crested Grebes, a Grey Heron and a few Mallards. At the feeders there were a few Great and Blue Tits, Greenfinches, a breif view of a flying Kingfisher, 3 Swallow and about 5 Jackdaws over and a Goldfinch which set the scene for an amazing Sparrowhawk attack! It was so quick I missed most of it but it was small and slate grey-blue above, so a male, and so fast! It was it like lightning and out just as quick. I heard this rapid, swift flapping next to me and looked up, the Goldfinch was gone, the Sparrowhawk flying away, swerving at birds as it went. My mum (back at this point) managed to see that the Goldfinch had escaped. i have seen some pretty dramatic Sparrowhawk attacks in my birdwatching time, both brief and absolutely stunning, lasting for minutes. A few times I have seen one chasing a Collared Dove, swerving so quick, following its every move, once I saw a male come out of a bush and grab a Great Tit just as it was flying out. But by far, the most amazing one I have ever seen is one chasing a singing Skylark in Bedfordshire (they sing to show the predator how strong and fit they are), the Skylark, making clever moves to get the Hawk off its tail. One tiny scrape of a Sparrowhawks talons during a high speed chase like this is enough to kill. I could only watch in awe as these two birds, both trying to outwit the other, performed what was probably the most thrilling birdwatching experience in my whole life, so far! The Lark was even clever enough to fly the Sparrowhawk into a wire, taking advantage of the Hawk's lock on target method of hunting. Sparrowhawks are pre-plan hunters, pre-planning their route, flying it several times to get to know it, all the twists and turns and good places to surprise their prey, absolutely great stuff. They lock onto their target like a heat seeking missile, keeping their eyes on it all the time, only keeping half watch of the obstacles around them, dealing with them whilst keeping their eye on their prey at all times. The Sparrowhawk almost grabbed the wire, it slowed down as it rose up the the wire then going back to the Lark's level again, this gave the Lark enough time to fly as fast as it could into a bush, still singing, out of the Sparrowhawk's reach.
Anyway, I shouldn't have started with Sparrowhawks, I could have written far more about these amazing predators that I admire so much, with their hunting skills and manouverability. Oh no, I'm starting again, better get back to Warnham...
So, where was I , yes after the Sparrowhawk left, understandably, all the birds were a bit nervous, and were relunctant to show themselves so we moved on the the next feeding station.
At the main feeding station we saw mch the same stuff, but there was a Magpie and a few Woodpigeons including a juvenile that had the begginnings of a neck patch, very faint. Greenfinches squabbled over the feeder and a few Chaffinches were hainging around. After a while watching the small birds and a lovely little Wood Mouse (which let me get a shot of it) we moved on to the last hide. Here we saw two male and a female Mandarin, the Kingfisher, or a different one flying again, Teal and we heard the eiry squeeling of a Water Rail, which caried on for a considerable amount of time. Other than that I saw a couple of Moorhens doing a territorial display to each other and heard a Nuthatch.
It was a thrilling day, especially with that Sparrowhawk, the Mandarins were nice too!