I have just seen a Sparrowhawk from the kitchen window, circling high overhead, but travelling swiftly away due to the very windy conditions. Obviously it was checking out the gardens looking for suitable prey.
The Sparrowhawk became scarce in Britain during the 20th century because it was badly affected by the liberal use of pesticides. Indeed though I grew up in a rural area, I cannot remember seeing one in my younger days.
Now it has recovered it's numbers as a result of changes in agricultural practice and is regularly seen in it's natural habitat of woods, but also is a quite common site in suburban gardens.
In recent years I have observed many Sparrowhawks in their low darting, predatory flight, as they fly directly into trees and shrubs to attack small birds. I have also seen them soar high overhead in wooded areas but also around our home in the city outskirts, then diving suddenly with closed wings and at incredible speed.
I have been fortunate to observe juvenile "Spags" on a couple of occasions in our garden. The first maybe two years ago when one youngster attempted to fly into a neighbours shrub. I am afraid I do not recall the name of the shrub but it had many sharp pointed thorns all over it. A number of Sparrows sheltered inside while the Sparrowhawk attempted to gain an entry into the bush but to no avail.
In the Autumn of last year after the leaves had fallen from the Lilac and Forsythia in our front garden, it was again a juvenile that attacked a flock of Sparrows. I watched as it flew directly into the branches but made a clumsy attack allowing the small birds to flee. It then hopped from branch to branch as though searching for the birds that it knew had been there. Eventually realising that the trees were indeed empty it flew onto a flat roof across the road and sat in wait hoping that they would return. I guess it was rather inexperienced in hunting for it sat in full view and as a result no birds returned until after it had given up and departed.
I often wonder how it fared, did it learn to hunt successfully for itself, did it survive the winter. I guess I will never know.