Killer on the wing! (or the lawn…)

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A flurry of feathers floated past the window this morning as I worked on a pile of features and projects which currently seems to have no end.

At first it had me flummoxed – feathers falling from the sky? But it took no more than a couple of seconds for me to work out what must have happened – sparrowhawk kill!

Sure enough, I looked out of the office window on to next door’s lawn to see the village sparrowhawk stood in one corner, eyes narrowed, talons firmly clamped around the carcass of a pigeon from which he was already tearing lumps of red flesh.

What a glorious sight! What a glorious moment in the harsh reality that is wild nature! What a glorious excuse to abandon the computer and with it the work, grab the camera, attach my new zoom lens and fire of a few shots of this barred hunter.

I’ve seen him often enough before, making futile bids to grasp the blackbirds, chaffinch and goldcrest that visit the garden every day, but until today it’s never been more than a fleeting glance.

Now, I watched him for ten minutes or more – and he knew that I was watching. Those constantly alert eyes… he sensed the window open, heard the shutter click, saw the flash fire (must learn to switch that off…) – you can even see the flash reflect off his eyes in some of the photos I managed to snatch.

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In the end I got over confident, sneaked down stairs, out of the garden door and tried to poke my lens through the neighbour’s fence to get better close-ups. Mr Sparrowhawk knew my every move and instantly he was up, carcass in claw, and lumbered in ungainly style a few inches into the air, round the corner out of sight.

It’s been a beautiful day in Ribblesdale and I’ve been chained to my desk writing all sorts of things when I’d rather have been out and about. But this incident more than made up for the incarceration.

On a completely different topic, John Martyn, one of my favourite musicians died just a few weeks ago and I came across this performance this afternoon and thought I’d like to share it.

I met Martyn and shared a beer once or twice but never encountered the riotous rebel that many describe, only a courteous, gentle giant of a guy whose music expressed so, so much emotion.

This performance is one I’d seen before and is a superb example of how much he not only put into his music, but how much of him his music drew out. I hope you enjoy it.

John Manning

Freelance outdoor writer John Manning and his family are based in the Yorkshire Dales