Tragedy At The Blackbird Nest

blackbird-680_1Over the last several days many of us have been following the progress of a nesting pair of blackbirds on one of our live cams.

We’ve watched as the female incubated through rain and shine being regularly visited by her mate offering tasty snacks. I always feel truly privileged watching the views offered by our live cams as they reveal the tender relationship between the male and female during the nesting season.

We had wonderful views of the chicks hatching on Monday 2nd April and managed to capture the second chick hatching from start to finish. Dad was watching over the nest at time and offered a helping beak occasionally. He left the nest after a few minutes and was closely replaced by the female. Spotting that her second chick had broken free of its shell she promptly removed parts of the shell from the nest in preparation for the arrival of number three!

Feeding starts almost immediately with both mum and dad disappearing briefly and returning with beaks full of grubs of varying descriptions. All very small to begin with, certainly on the first day, but by the second, with all three chicks now hatched, meal sizes have increased considerably and now predominantly consist of worms.

The evening of the second day was extremely cold and wet. Heavy rain fell for most of the night and into the following morning. This meant that our female blackbird was glued to the nest constantly for almost twelve hours! Covered in raindrops she didn’t budge, spreading her wings slightly to ensure no rain entered the nest cup and her chicks below.

The fourth day arrived and everything was proceeding exactly to plan. That is until around 17.06pm.

I was updating the Wildlife Whisperer website at the time, adding a few new blog posts and video clips etc. when all of a sudden I heard an almighty commotion outside. With a cacophony of alarm calls resonating around the garden I turned to the Live Cam monitors to be greeted by the unmistakable golden eye of a Sparrowhawk staring out of the screen at me! Nooooooo! The blackbird nest!

We regularly see Sparrowhawks in the garden. Last August  I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and took a few photos when one captured a blackbird right outside our lounge window.

And only last week I spotted the Sparrowhawk on two separate occasions. The first was during one of my regular walks around the garden. Again, I heard lots of bird alarm calls and spotted the Sparrowhawk deep within the vegetation not far from the blackbird nest. I can remember thinking at the time ‘Phew, that was close!’. The second was a couple of days later. I walked pasted the French doors in the lounge and saw a shadow dart across outside followed by a thud and a puff of feathers. I ran outside and spotted the Sparrowhawk sitting on top of an ivy covered archway (about 3ft from the Great Tit nest box!). I couldn’t see any prey so can only assume that whatever had been the target had escaped.

sparrowhawk_blackbird_predationMy mind returned to the Live Cam screen. I watched in disbelief as the Sparrowhawk towered over the tiny defenceless chicks below. This wasn’t going to end well for the blackbirds. The Sparrowhawk disappeared offscreen with the first chick and to my amazement the female blackbird returned to the nest within twelve seconds!

Fifteen minutes passed before the Sparrowhawk returned for the second chick. This time I could clearly see that the Sparrowhawk had been ringed. Unfortunately I couldn’t read the code on the ring but an interesting observation nonetheless.

We then had a gap of almost exactly two hours before the Sparrowhawk return for the final chick. Interestingly it approached from a totally different direction. Watching the recorded footage you can clearly see the female blackbird sitting on the remaining chick before being surprised by the Sparrowhawk climbing up the branch from below!

The Sparrowhawk returned to the empty blackbird nest the following morning but obviously left empty beaked.

The end to another chapter in the trials and tribulations of the Whisperer HQ garden! Hopefully you enjoyed watching the blackbirds as much as I did. I’m sure our blackbirds will be featuring again soon on our live cams.

And the Sparrowhawk? Well, what astonishing behaviour to observe AND record! I expect we’ll be seeing this character again over the coming weeks.

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