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Last weekend Preslava and I drove from London to Dumfries and Galloway on the Scottish borders. Here, all round nice guy Alan McFadyen has developed probably the best opportunity in the UK to photograph that most dashing of birds of prey, the Sparrowhawk.

This has been made possible because his lowland woodland feeding station attracts an extraordinary number of small birds including Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue tit, Jay, Goldfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.These in turn attract wild Sparrowhawks. Classic opportunist predators, they are regular visitors to the hides.

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The Sparrowhawk is one of nature conservation’s success stories. They have made a remarkable recovery from the effects of organo-chlorine pesticides in the 1950s and 1960s. These highly toxic chemicals poisoned Sparrowhawks and resulted in them laying eggs with unnaturally thin egg shells which incubating females cracked.

Since the banning of these toxins their recovery has been such that they are now threatening to become victims of their own success. Their  ruthless reputation has meant that they have been wrongly blamed for the decline in songbirds.

Over the course of the two days Pressie and I were in the hides, we were privileged to see the male Sparrowhawk on a number of occasions. It’s an amazing experience to be fixed by the glare of those pitiless, yellow eyes. The male Sparrowhawk is a beautiful bird of prey. A glorious mixture of rusty orange and gun metal blue. On the last day in the hides we were very lucky to have him come in and perch in front of the hide in last light of the day.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

A perfect end to a perfect weekend and I started on the long journey south very happy.

Alan has recently teamed up with Nature Photography Hides, good friends Mark Hancox and Danny Green’s exciting new business venture. If you would like to book a Sparrowhawk workshop you can do so via the website.

The team have recently added a drinking/ reflection pool which is already working well and attracting Red Squirrels. This can also be booked via the Nature Photography Hides website. Preslava had great fun watching the squirrels running around whilst we waited for the Sparrowhawk to pay us another visit.

I’d like to thank Alan for allowing us to use his hide and sharing his Sparrowhawks with us. Cracking set up, cracking birds and a real testament to all his hard work. A real opportunity not to be missed. Cheers Alan!

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