Our house is doing its bit to help the waning numbers of house sparrows. Well, I know it's particularly in the UK that their numbers are declining, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't also true here in Greece. Around the house and under the carports (our side and John and Wendy's) we estimate that there are probably a dozen nests and we're OK with that because, under the pitched terracotta tiled roof of the house itself there's a concrete slab for a roof, so the nests don't really do any harm, plus the occupants provide us with endless hours of pleasure, especially when the young are nearing their time to fledge.
Now and again we have to warn away Simba the cat, when he decides that a nice place to squat down on his haunches, ears all perked up and eyes concentrated on one particular direction, is behind the Agave Americana just a couple of metres from the flower bed where we throw the crumbs, but as a rule our sparrow population is quite safe and secure.
Well, I ought to say, was quite safe and secure. Why? because of late we've been conscious a lot more often of a silent "swoosh" as a bird of prey (evidently) "whooshed" past us while we've been taking coffee, or perhaps pottering around in the garden. There have been a few moments when we've almost felt the rush of air from its wings, it's come that close.
Now, when we lived in our last house in the UK we used to have bird-feeder especially designed to take "Nyjer" seeds. We'd ordered it (and our first supply of the seeds) from the RSPB website (excellent, by the way, if you're in the UK that is!) especially designed to attract goldfinches [that link ought to take you to the excellent Keith Christmas' "Burdz" photo album on Facebook, in particular to a shot of a goldfinch on the same kind of feeder as we used to have]. We had to get used to the fact that our feeder was so successful, often being covered with goldfinches all squabbling to get at the seeds, that it soon became the local fast-food joint for sparrowhawks as well.
|Photo courtesy of http://andysworld.org.uk/tag/goldfinch/|
We would frequently look out and see a Sparrowhawk sitting on the fence at the end of the garden, waiting for his (or her) lunch to arrive at the feeder, whereupon it would silently make its deadly swoop, grab a hapless goldfinch and be off away into the trees nearby to alight and enjoy its meal. My wife was pretty upset the first couple of times that this happened, but we all have to accept that it's how nature works. It's still a wonder to behold, despite our sentimentality about the poor victim. The rest of the goldfinches would very soon resume their attack on the Nyjer seeds, as though nothing had happened.
So, here we are now in Rhodes and this time we have a similar situation, although now with the actual prey after which the sparrowhawk is named. We do get goldfinches here too, but they don't live with us at the house. The sparrows, though, are in plentiful supply. Just yesterday we were enjoying a rotten weather day, as outside it was all grey and raining most of the time (very British), the logburner was flickering away and the afternoon was nearly over and we were both flopped out on the sofa watching a movie (very decadent, eh?), when my wife said,
"Don't move. Look!!"
Now this was a bit silly, because in order to look where she wanted me to look, it entailed the need to move. So I moved, but everso slowly, since she was staring open-mouthed out of the French windows at the small marble table which we keep out there for coffee time.
"It's sitting on the table. Is it a Sparrowhawk?"
It was. So I crept to my office, reeeeally slowly in case he saw me and took off. Then I crept back and snapped this...
Now, I know the quality isn't very good, not anything like as good as Keith's shots, or those of Nigel Sparks, but at least you can see him clearly. He just sat there for probably four or five minutes, before giving it up for a bad job, the sparrows no doubt all being tucked up under the eaves waiting out the weather, as indeed were we.
We were, notwithstanding the fact that some of the feathered residents around us may disappear from time to time, well pleased to see that we now have such a magnificent example of nature's flying machines living nearby.