High drama yesterday morning in our back garden, as the sparrowhawk managed a successful surprise attack on our feeding station. I say successful, in that normally the early warning system works well, and the garden is completely empty of visible birds long before the hawk arrives. Not yesterday, though - the hawk appeared out of nowhere and at tremendous speed, scattering small birds in all directions. I don't know whether his success was complete, and he actually caught one. He may well have done, but it was all too quick to be sure. Certainly he (it was the smaller slate grey male sparrowhawk) lodged himself for a while in the bushes to the rear of our garden at the end of his raid. He was on the ground and moving, but I couldn't see whether he had a victim there or not.
It is perhaps unworthy of me to have hoped that if he did get something, then it was one of the abundant chaffinches and not our bullfinches, which are a single pair. Since they are around this morning, he didn't, anyway! Watching them yesterday before the sparrowhawk strike, I was touched again by the way the male stands guard as the female feeds. Actually, he did at one point decide to move in alongside her and take some breakfast himself; she was having none of it, and saw him off angrily; "Not while I'm eating!" I sensed her saying. He returned to his branch and chased away a couple of blue tits. As soon as she left the feeder he moved in and ate as much as he could as quickly as possible - she had flown off and he needed to follow. Bullfinches mate for life (as I think I've noted before), but it isn't all marital harmony!