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Not Quite A Daddy Long Legs

2nd of March 2004

I have been hoping to attract some different birds to the bird table this year, but I’m not sure that our latest visitor is all that welcome.
As I enjoy my elevenses, I am constantly glancing out of the windows to the bird table, watching the great tits and the nut hatches come and go, and the antics of our female blackbird. She has decided that no other blackbird will feed at the table or on the ground around it. Both male and female visitors are vigorously chased away. This is her territory and she is holding it.
One day last week, at the end of January, things seemed rather quiet as I sipped my tea. No sign of Mrs. blackbird, no nut hatches, seemingly no birds at all. A few moments later our new visitor arrived. A sparrow hawk landed on the roof of the bird table. No wonder everything else was lying low! At first it had its back towards us, a slatey blue grey with long barred tail, sharply hooked beak and bright yellow eyes when it gave us a profile. Then, to our delight, it turned around and looked straight in the windows at us. The most striking features were its bright yellow eyes and the length of its bright yellow legs, with long toes and black talons.
Although I have often seen them fly around the garden and woods I have never had the opportunity to study one at such close quarters and I had not realised their legs were quite so long . This one was a male, the female is more brownie backed and bigger. He seemed as interested in us as we were in him. His chest was barred and his cheeks were pale cream but his legs and talons, used to catch birds in-flight, were amazing. After a few minutes he flew away down the ride at high-speed. Needless to say little birds stayed in hiding. It was lovely to see him so clearly, but am I fattening great tits for him at my table? I’m getting rather attached to Mrs. blackbird and I don’t want to see her plucked from a fence post in the garden. But that’s nature for you and I guess I should not be sentimental. Everyone has to make a living! Wendy Bathurst

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