Uh-oh, she spotted us! (Ian Alexander)
A visit to Gunnersbury Triangle Local Nature Reserve in Chiswick, west London yesterday resulted in witnessing an unusual experience. This woodland reserve is under severe threat of being walled in by development. It's currently bordered by industry, housing and a railway line - hardly an ideal setting for wildlife to flourish you would have thought. But there is plenty there.... at the moment. The local conservation group need signatures urgently for their online petition to stave off the developers http://handsoffourtriangle.wordpress.com.
Anyway, I was walking with Triangle stalwarts Marie Rabouhans and Jan Hewlett when we bumped into a couple of quantity surveyers along the path. One said he had just seen a 'hawk take a Wood Pigeon'. To our surprise literally seven feet away we saw a large female Sparrowhawk spreadeagled on top of the woodland floor vegetation obviously pinning something down. A closer inspection revealed that its 'prey' was not a Wood Pigeon but another distinctly smaller female Sparrowhawk!
They grappled a bit more before the smaller bird managed to gain the ascendency and topple the larger bird on her back. They were aware of us during the whole process and without warning they disentangled and flew off. For the next hour we watched them chase themselves around the woodland.
I had never seen this kind of behaviour before but I assume that because females are a third bigger than the males perhaps they are the ones to settle territorial disputes?