We share our breakfast with the garden birds. In the summer garden they whizz past our table between nests, perches and feeding spots ,in winter we watch from the kitchen. The beech hedge is often alive with squabbling sparrows.

But sometimes all is silent and there are no birds to be seen or heard.

Even if we haven’t spotted it the small birds are alert to the threat from above - a sparrowhawk also looking for breakfast . Sparrows dive deep into the hedge, other birds scatter and quieten.

Sparrowhawks are not easy to photograph. They may be quite regular visitors but don’t have regular perches as, for instance, owls tend to. Though they often sit in a cherry where we hang the bird feeders!

They are beautiful birds when seen at close range, assuming you’re not a sparrow. The russet neck of the male and stripey grey and white of their plumage is bright with soft blue-grey wings and back on the adults. Juveniles are browner often with two white spots atop their heads, like bushy eyebrows. This plumage lasts for the first year. They fly fast and decisively, twisting and turning to avoid obstacles and are easily missed unless they land. They practice ‘short stay perch hunting’ stopping to look, moving on, aiming to surprise their prey.

They like to nest in conifers in woods and often have traditional sites but do build a new nest each year. Small birds and mammals are preferred diet but have also been known to eat carrion. Egg laying is timed to coincide with when vulnerable fledglings of other species appear which they kill by squeezing.

As well as whizzing past my head with a bluetit in the claws I have seen them fly straight into our hedge at a right angle to access sparrows but this is a dangerous manoeuvre, especially when practised by inexperienced younger birds.

February this year I noticed what I took to be plastic caught in the hawthorn hedge….sadly it was a young hawk and I assume it had broken it’s neck as there was no obvious damage to be seen .

I took many photos and a less squeamish friend offered to ‘recover’ the skull for me. Considering how eager and dangerous that eye and beak appear the skull is surprisingly tiny and delicate.

Despite their habits they don’t seem to have had much impact on the number of sparrows we enjoy our breakfast alongside.