A female sparrowhawk has just taken a collared dove by the kitchen window. Not all that unusual here, but these goings on still surprise me in this medium-size suburban garden.
For once, I didn't accidentally scare the sparrowhawk away - glimpsed feathers flying around, and I guess I've learned not to immediately stick my head up. Previous experience suggests they'll return to their kill later if disturbed, so at least the dead victim isn't 'wasted'.
After some plucking, she's carried the kill away to under a shrub at the bottom of the garden, and has continued plucking (and presumably eating) for about the last half hour. There are already some left-over wings under there from a previous kill, so perhaps its her favourite spot. There are some blue tits in the shrub just a few feet from where this is going on - I doubt their intelligence runs to "She's not going to eat me while she's still got half a dove to finish", but equally can't believe they hadn't noticed - perhaps a sparrowhawk below them on the ground doesn't trigger their fear like the silhouette in the sky or one hurtling towards them does. I wonder how many of the scattered feathers will shortly be incorporated into other birds' nests?
I might take a different attitude if the sparrowhawks target 'my' swifts when they arrive to breed in about a couple of month. I don't think they can catch up with a swift in flight, but they learn that the swifts regularly enter their nest-hole, and can hang around and ambush them. I accidentally 'rescued' a swift from a sparrowhawk's talons the other year - I didn't know what was going on - just went to look, and the sparrowhawk flew off - think the swift was still OK - it managed to take to the air. They don't intentionally land except at the nest, but it's a myth that they can't take off from the ground.
Hmmm. Sparrowhawk still plucking. Wish she'd get on with it, or get the dove down to a size where she can carry it away - I want to go out in the garden again!