Good day for the winged predators
Saturday 7th June 2003 in the garden diary...
I always feel that if you spend an hour or two in the garden, you are bound to see something interesting. Today's lovely weather meant I could do just that and I wasn't disappointed.
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The first notable sighting was a pair of blue damselflies over the pond. These could have been either the common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) or the common coenagrion (Coenagrion puella). At first I saw only the female, she was landing on floating vegetation and dipping the end of her abdomen into the water: clearly egg laying. Later on I saw a male and female clasping: the male uses specialised claspers at the tip of his abdomen to clasp the female behind the head and the pair fly around in this bizarre tandem. Together they moved over and around the pond; the female continuing to lay eggs. Watching damselflies and dragonflies in the garden must be one of the greatest rewards of having a pond.
Later in the afternoon a much briefer, but certainly no less dramatic, visit from a sparrow hawk. I heard the alarm calls of blackbirds and looked up just in time to see a large sparrow hawk (probably a female) alight in the garden not 40 feet away from me. It already had its prey - I'm not sure whether it had just killed it or had brought it into the garden. From the glimpse I got, the prey could have been a young starling (though I've not seen any around here yet this year). The sparrow hawk was being mobbed by the other garden birds (and now stalked by our cat too) so it left. Gardener's tend to either love or hate sparrow hawks. For my part, I can't get enough of them: I spent too long when I was young being completely deprived of them because of the ravages of DDT. I didn't see a sparrow hawk until I was nearly 20. Yes they take garden birds, but no, I am confident, they do not have a serious impact on their populations: wild predators rarely do - it's not in their interests. Its predators like domestic cats, which we humans maintain and unnaturally high densities, which pose a more serious threat.
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Do you live in Merseyside? Interested in its wildlife?