Sparrowhawk attack

Earlier today my usually quiet front garden resembled a scene from Hitchcock’s horror film, The Birds, as dozens upon dozens of rooks and jackdaws circled above my house. The noise was astounding and the sight quite phenomenal, if not a little surreal. I was baffled as to what was going on, until I honed in on a panicked squawking emanating from the ivy beneath my beech hedge, where a sparrowhawk was locked in a violent tussle with … a jackdaw!

Sparrowhawk vs jackdaw

Sparrowhawk vs jackdaw

Given our extremely healthy population of blue tits and house sparrows, we are used to seeing the occasional sparrowhawk pop in for a ‘snack’, but I have never seen them tackle anything bigger. I was impressed, especially as I was pretty sure the sparrowhawk had the upper hand.

The jackdaw was still making a horrendous noise – it was far from dead – and the mob above was maintaining its rowdy protest too. But the sparrowhawk had it well pinned down.

Sparrowhawk covers her 'kill' having brought down a jackdaw

The sparrowhawk appeared to have things under control …

Plucking

… she even started plucking out the jackdaw’s breast feathers

Until she spotted me. Thanks to my paparazzi-style intrusion, this was one hearty lunch she didn’t get to tuck in to, because in the few seconds that she focused on me, the jackdaw started fighting back.

Jackdaw vs sparrowhawk

Fighting talk

In fact, in a flash, it completely turned the tables and had the sparrowhawk pinned on her back. Talons locked, they tumbled across the lawn before both taking off into the sky.

The black plague circling over the roof swiftly dissipated too. Nothing like a bit of gore and mayhem to liven up a Thursday lunchtime!

The sparrowhawk is a small bird of prey, well adapted to hunting birds in confined spaces, like my front garden! This was a female, as she had a brown back and wings. The females are larger than the males, which have a bluish-grey back and wings and orange-brown bars underneath.

The magnificent sparrowhawk (Accipiter nissus)

The magnificent sparrowhawk (Accipiter nissus)

On your marks …

… get set, grow! This month is when I start to get back out in the garden and scare myself silly at how much there is to do. Yes, it’s that time of year when everything starts to get going again – the spring bulbs, the perennials, the weeds!

Tete-a-tete narcissus

The emergence of tete-a-tete narcissi tells me its time to get gardening again

It’s all crying out for a tidy up. Now is the time to cut back the remnants of winter growth, stop the weeds in their tracks and start sowing for the year ahead.

But there’s only so much I can do at any one time, so rather than go with my first impulse – all out panic! – I remind myself of the 15 minutes of green philosophy. I can do anything for 15 minutes, and with 15 minutes of green every day (plus a few 15+ sessions when time allows) I will coax my garden back to splendour.

Spring border in desperate need of a tidy up

Desperately seeking a tidy up

I started on what I call my perennial border; basically, the border that gives me the most grief but can also bring the most joy. I removed the dead leaves and stalks from the sedums, day lilies and anemones, dug out as much of the ground elder as I could, which creeps in from under the hawthorn hedge, and added a few bucketfuls of garden compost and leaf mould.

Tidy herbaceous border

What a transformation, and oh so very satisfying 🙂

It looks a bit bare at the moment, but I’m always amazed how quickly it fills in once the perennials get growing. So that’s one good job done!

That just leaves the raspberry canes to chop down, the herb bed to tidy, the vegetable beds to hoe, the fruit trees to top dress, the seeds to sow, the ……. deep breath! 15 minutes at a time, remember.

To help me (and maybe you too), I’ve made a checklist for March and used the 15 minutes of green logo to indicate which of the jobs can be done 15 minutes at at time. Check out the #15greenmins tab at the top of the page and click on March for more information and a checklist that you can print out.

It’s time to get out and grow, 15 minutes at a time!

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