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Monday, 20 December 2010

Hungarian Sparrowhawk - on 16th December, 2010

My wife and I have just returned from a break in Hungary, based on Budapest. Our objective was the Christmas markets, and rides on a couple of special trains - one being a fine dining train one evening to the Danube Bend, and the other being a long day trip to Vienna for the Christmas markets there. I won't bore you with any more details, but because we had a very full trip planned, with no real possibilities for any birding, I did not take binoculars or the camera - just a tiny pocket Sony with a 28-100 zoom capability.

On our first full day in Hungary, we took a trip to Esztergom, north of Budapest. There is a very fine basilica here, with views over the Danube to Slovakia. For the whole of our stay, the countryside was covered in snow, with temperatures around -6 to -12. Everything appeared monochrome and identifying birds without bins in this light was nigh on impossible. At one point my wife was walking ahead of me, and called out that there was a flock of birds. These were just a small distant flock of (unidentified) geese, but I gently hissed at my wife to come back towards me, as I'd seen a bird on the wall behind her. It turned out to be a male Sparrowhawk. I started cursing the lack of camera, but got out the pocket Sony for a record shot. I then started a stealthy approach, and the bird stayed put.

Sparrowhawk - Slovakia in the background

The bird was intently looking over the ramparts of the basilica, and seemed to be oblivious to my approach, so I advanced a bit closer.

Still the bird took no notice of me, so I got closer, and closer, and closer! When I got to about three metres away, the bird still wasn't bothered by me. It just kept staring over the ramparts. Even when I made noises to try and get it to turn towards me it only half turned, with a look in its eye as if to say "sod off - can't you see I'm busy here!"

not the closest shot that I got, but the best!

It did eventually drop down over the ramparts (presumable after some prey), but only as I turned away, having taken my photos.

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