Friday, 10 April 2015

Thank you, Hawk

Fair warning:  a bit of gore ahead.  

Last weekend was a bank holiday, meaning in the EU and UK we got a 4 day weekend to encompass Good Friday and Easter Monday.  My standard response "every Friday is a good Friday" never flies.  Just like this pigeon!  

We took the opportunity of the free days to head out for a walk along the Jurassic Coast, a stretch of dramatic red sandstone and limestone cliffs in East Devon and Dorset.  The train dropped us off in the seaside town of Exmouth and we were making our way to our lodging for the night when I noticed total pandemonium break out with the roosting gulls and pigeons.  For good reason: this handsome sparrow hawk had just made a kill right before us.

My camera had been in my pack, so it took me a few minutes to pull it out and get set up, but at this point, the hawk was plucking feathers on a still-struggling bird.

The hawk would pause and look around from time to time, the pigeon would take the opportunity and hop about a bit and the hawk would act like it's no big deal to be surfing a pigeon.

I don't think the sparrowhawk meant to bring it down in the middle of an intersection, so  I directed traffic around the scene and the few cars that came by seemed pretty keen to rubberneck the bloody drama playing out on the village streets.  A few bystanders took photos and explained to their kids what was going on.

 Yes, it was brutal to witness.  However, I am a hater of pigeons (they are currently busy shitting on my drying laundry and picnic table out on the balcony) and I always root for the hawk in this situation.

 Finally, the pigeon ceased to struggle, and the hawk went to work ripping out the feathers with glee.

 Bry kept uttering "ew...ugh, ew" with each rip, and a local recording it on his iphone said, "Brilliant!".  Which is my favorite word to describe this entire scene.  

The hawk didn't seem to mind the small crowd that had gathered to watch, but eventually he either got tired of being so exposed or the paparazzi just got to him, and with a huge effort, he took his dinner in the talons and flew off awkwardly to a nearby tree.

It looked like a pillowfight had gone down in the street.

I felt really fortunate to witness this- I've always been a fan of raptors and this is the first time I saw one take down prey up close.  When I got back to London, I noticed an eviscerated pigeon and a load of feathers blowing around on the rooftop below my flat, so I know there is something in the neighborhood that is hungry.  I just wish he would eat more.  

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