Friday, 18 February 2011

Sparrowhawk among the bluetits

This morning a commotion among the small birds using our feeders alerted us to the presence of a raptor. It was a juvenile Sparrowhawk [accipiter nisus] épervier d'europe, all baggy streaked feathers with white patches on his back, wings and head. He swept across the meadow, missing his target completely, then perched for a few minutes on a post near the young willows, to stare imperiously around him for a more likely prey item. He posed nicely for photographs taken through the eyepiece of Tim's telescope. After a short interlude the small birds gradually returned to the feeders, the acrobatic siskins probing urgently for chips of peanut. Then there was mass panic all over again and the sparrowhawk swept into the cherry tree right outside the window. Missed again! He retreated to the post for a thorough preen, continuing to stare around him from time to time.

Juvenile Sparrowhawk [it was misty!]

What is noticeable is that BWPi [Birds of the Western Palearctic interactive] and Collins latest guide both show NO white patches in their illustrations of juveniles.... however, the videos on BWPi do show clearly visible white patches. Is this a case of drawing from preserved skins, all nicely groomed, or the same mistakes carried on blithley because "if it was drawn so originally, it must be right!"
Ted Ellis [a famous Norfolk naturalist] used to despair of tidying by artists.... his usual example was the holes round the edges of the older leaves of Butterbur [Petasites hybridus]. Never shown, but always there, caused by the Strawberry Snail [Trichia striolata].... and always edited out in the drawings.

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