As with the observation of any wild creatures, observing sparrowhawks requires a lot of patience and often the luck of being in the right place at the right time. Although their presence may not be as apparent as it was during the nesting period they are still around and so at the very least the Botanics can fulfil the criteria of being the right place. The right time is a bit more tricky but probably the best bet is just after the gardens open at 10am and we start to fill up with visitors.
On one such occasion I happened to see a sparrowhawk which was persistently diving onto a magpie. They both may have been juveniles. However once the sparrowhawk realised it had attracted my attention it hastened to make its escape. Before it did though I was fortunate to be near enough to hear it make some very quiet sounds I had not heard before. Instead of the long, sustained, plaintive begging call which had been the signature tune of earlier weeks, it made an agitated series of short bursts of quiet, whistle-like chirping noises as it flew away.
Quite often my colleagues and I have been alerted to the presence of different raptors, including of course sparrowhawks, in the skies above the garden from the sounds of crows giving chase. Noisily defending their territory they usually gang up on the offending bird and engage in aerial combat. Also sparrowhawks can be detected at a location by the tell-tale signs they have left, such as feathers plucked from a pigeon and scattered around in large quantities.
Again if you have any stories of close encounters with the Botanics sparrowhawks you would like to share or any photos please feel free to comment on this post. Alternatively or additionally you can share via your preferred social media channel and if you use #BotanicsSparrowhawks it will make it easier to find.