Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Saga of the Sparrowhawk and the Otter

Tuesday morning and the last day of my extended Easter Break so headed for a nice quiet day at Big Waters or so I thought.  Not a great lot on the pond, the resident Mute Swans successfully getting rid of 2 Mute Swans who were attempting to "invade" Big Waters and they also gave warning to several Canadas who quite wisely kept out of the way or on the Island as the Swans dont seem to mind as long as the "invaders" seem to be out of the water.  A Little Grebe meandered around, the odd Teal took off then did a quick circle then settled back from whence they had departed, the 5 Cormorants perched in a menacing fashion on the tree and the Mallards came from different corners of the pond to congregate in the centre.  A couple of other regulars arrived and the normal chatter ensued until Mike pointed out that something was making the Gulls agitated at the top of the pond and sure enough within a few seconds Mike had spotted the Otter.  All 3 of us followed it, the Gulls who were now mobbing it keeping us abreast of its position and the various birds taking off from the pond also aiding us but even then losing it occassionally but eventually picking it up as it circumnavigated the lake and eventually started heading towards us.  Cameras were being checked as it got within about 30metres of the hide when all of a sudden I saw movement off to my left and glanced over to see a Sparrowhawk heading like an Exocet towards the feeding station, I swivelled around and saw a Blue Tit sitting with its back towards the lake and could still hear Mike giving a quiet running commentary on the Otter.   I started to say "Sparrowhawk" and was trying to get the camera pointed in the general direction of its normal flightpath when it seemed to land on a branch then leapfrog onto another branch then POW it hit the Blue Tit just as it tried to take off.  The Sparrowhawks legs then tried to push against the large branch that the Blue Tit had been sitting on but it missed as the Tit seemed to be impaled on its right legs talons and it cartwheeled into the layer of branches and twigs that had been cut down and fell through:
The Sparrowhawk hits what I think is the second branch before it hits the Blue Tit, this was about the 5th pic the others being just blurs of brown.
The big thick branch on which the tail feathers are lying is where the Blue Tit was perched and the one the Sparrowhawk seemed to hit and fall through the thinner branches.  According to the times on the pictures it stayed there for 8 Seconds (and 12  pics) and I had the camera out the window pointing down as this was all happening about 3-4ft under the hide window.  The next pic is the last one before it seemed to burst out of the branches and go under or around the front of the hide with what appeared to be the blue tit still impaled on its talon, unfortunately I didn't get any shots as being the consumate photographer that I am (pissing myself laughing) I was trying to adjust the settings and watch what was happening at the same time. 
I looked over to the other 2 in the hide and they were looking out of the front of the hide and Mike was taking quite a few pics so I thought great he is getting pics of thne departing Sparrowhawk then when I looked out of the window I could see he was taking pics of the Otter just 10metres away chewing away on a fish and before I could start taking pics he dived.  They hadn't seen the Sparrowhawk but had heard the commotion and I hadn't seen the Otter.  I started looking at the pics I had taken when I heard Mikes camera going again so I got a few shots off also with this being the first one:
With this severely cropped one being the last.
The Otter then swam away from the hide and round the lake again (it had now been in view, off and on for 50mins) and most of the birds on the lake had dissappeared apart from the Gulls who were now making half hearted attempts at mobbing the Otter.  Then from the South came a Swallow careering around the sky which seemed to take one look and then headed back the way it came.  The door of the hide opened and Alan J stood there saying what the hells going on the Feeding Station is quiet as the grave and all I can see on the Pond is 1 Cormorant and it stayed like that for quite a while.

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