I had read an article in a previous edition of British Birds about the hunting strategy of Eurasion Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus which prompted me to write another which was subsequently published in the January 2005 issue.
This bird was observed from the Public Hide at Leighton Moss on 3 September 2003. The bird appeared in flight over the full length of the pool then perched out in the open on a dead branch. During the next twelve minutes I watched it fly across the water to the reed edge a distance of something like 150m in the direction from where it had first come, and without landing turned and flew back to the perch it had come from. This bird repeated this same manoeuvre three more times, always taking the same direct flight path and to the same area of reed edge, always turning without landing, and returning to the same perch. On each occasion flight was fast and direct whilst notably not as rapid as it would have been whilst chasing prey. I was now watching this bird crossing the pool for the fifth time, but this time it disappeared into the reeds at the precise point at which it had turned on the previous four sorties and emerged with a small unidentified prey item and flew off.
As far as I could see, this individual appeared to know that prey was in the reeds all the time and if this was a planned method of hunting it is one which I have never witnessed before and on this occasion at least, was a successful one.
Sparrowhawk image Pete Woodruff.