Its nearly a month since the first snow hit us and the start of the big freeze. Thanks (I think) to NASA for this amazing photograph, which shows virtually all of the UK totally covered with a huge, white blanket.
I went to Bretton this morning with the thaw well under way. The lakes are still mostly covered with ice but it is retreating fast and the carpet of snow has all but gone.
As expected the birdlife was a bit thin on the ground so I headed for the rear of hide where the birders who visit during the week usually put out some food. The place was deserted when I got there but not for long. By the time I'd placed the seed, nuts and peanut butter I had plenty of company. All the usual common birds showed up apart from the Coal Tits.
The light at this site isn't very good at the best of times and this morning was overcast which made it even worse. So the following pictures are taken at low shutter speeds and ISO 1600. A bit of noise reduction and sharpening in Photoshop has produced some reasonable, if not very sharp results.
The stuff on the bark of the tree is peanut butter. Most of the birds love it.
I'd been watching and photographing the feeding for quite some time when suddenly and completely out of the blue, the peace was shattered by a Sparrowhawk! Neither I nor these birds saw anything coming. It descended quickly and silently from the rear of where I was sitting and pounced before any of its potential prey had time to react.
I'm not sure whether the Sparrowhawk caught anything. It took off and then landed in a tree about 30 yards away but with its back to me. I tried to get a shot but there were too many branches in the way and the lens wouldn't autofocus. I switched to manual and got a couple of shots but they are poor and you can't tell whether or not it has anything in its beak. Although if you look closely along the bird's left 'shoulder' I think you might be able to see some ruffled feathers? Could this be a victim hanging from its beak?
Footnote: After asking around I learned that if the Sparrowhawk had caught anything then it would have had it grasped in it's talons. So it would appear that this strike was unsuccessful after all.