Nature and Photography


Spectacular wildlife moments occur every day in Dublin Bay Biosphere which go unwitnessed by human eyes. But back in 2019 I was lucky enough to witness, and photograph, a remarkable, up-close encounter with a hunting female sparrowhawk on the South salt marsh of Bull Island.


Whilst sitting near the Southern edge of the South salt marsh, counting and photographing dunlins and redshanks feeding on the incoming tide, in the corner of my eye I noticed something coming from the golf course behind me, darting low across the ground just several metres to my right. I quickly locked my gaze on to the bird and immediately identified it as a sparrowhawk in full stealth mode, flying no more than 30cm above the surface of the marsh at high speed towards the tideline.

With camera already in hand and ready, the sparrowhawk headed straight for a small group of about a dozen redshank and dunlin, which were feeding at the tideline just behind a shallow sandbank at the edge of the salt marsh. The waders flushed just at the last second as the sparrowhawk shot over the sandbank, however, she instantly singled out a dunlin which had flown out over the water. I took a sharp intake of breath as I kept snapping away with my camera, hoping to capture even one clear photograph of this zigzagging, lightning-fast endgame.

After several high-speed twists and turns the sparrowhawk lunged forward with its long legs, and grasped the dunlin only centimetres above the water surface. It then quickly proceeded back to the cover of the golf course with two hooded crows in tow. The entire chase, capture and retreat took no more than 30 seconds, and thankfully I managed to capture one clear photograph just as the sparrowhawk opened its wings, literally 2 seconds before it grasped the dunlin from the air.

Story and images kindly supplied by local photographer, Mark Collins.