Sparrowhawk in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuaryI was in the kitchen making a cup of tea as it flashed over the garden gate and executed a precision hairpin turn around the bird feeders. As it shot past the window in a blur of grey, an outstretched foot snatched a young Blue Tit off one of the feeders and whisked it away before the unfortunate bird was aware of what was happening. The male Sparrowhawk perched for a few moments on a fencepost and plucked out beakfuls of feathers from the now lifeless body of its prize. A sleek avian assassin, with piercing golden eyes; one look is enough to know that this bird means business. Satisfied that its victim is permanently subdued he glides off into the neighbouring woodland, as I look on in awe.

Predators evoke strong primal emotions in all of us, bringing out feelings that most of us usually keep well hidden in our day to day lives. In the UK, even though the only predators that humans haven’t already killed off are small and unlikely to do us any harm, they still manage to stir up extreme reactions.

Some of us are captivated by their beauty, their majesty, their adaptability or their tenacity; whilst others fear predators, or loathe them and do everything they can to destroy them.

Foxes are a good example of a predatory animal that people seem to either love or hate, often for no apparent reason. Another example is the Hen Harrier, a bird of open upland areas that relatively few people will ever have seen. The likelihood of seeing one of these spectacular birds is made even more difficult by the relentless and illegal persecution they suffer, especially around grouse moors. That’s why 1000s of people will be protesting at various sites around the UK this weekend 5th & 6th August at Hen Harrier Day events. Maybe I will see you at one of them?