The sunlight filtered through the fresh foliage on Dark Lane, dappling the narrow path as Esme and I set out one sunny morning recently.
The sunken path runs uphill with steep banks on either side. A couple of trees lean drunkenly inwards. You have to watch your feet on the ankle-twisting flints that get washed down from the fields.
It was the sparrowhawk’s angular profile that I saw first as it swooped low between the trees directly towards me. I had time to marvel at its piercing eyes and beautiful plumage before I noticed it was carrying a heavy load in its talons, like a World War Two Nazi bomber.
At that moment the hawk saw me and snapped away to the right through the foliage less than ten feet from my head.
As it did so it jettisoned its bomb and it whizzed past my head, so close it was a dark blur. Too quick for me to really react, it landed on the path with a loud ‘plop’ only a few feet behind me.
A large blackbird fledgling. Very, very dead.
Esme was oblivious to the little mini-drama that lasted perhaps three seconds. She sniffed the headless bird and then moved on.
Postcript: I returned the same way an hour or so later; the bird was still there. The sparrowhawk had never returned for its prey.