World of nature on doorstep

John Barton, Langdale Crescent, Wigan has been photographing Sparrow Hawk kills in his back garden from the kitchen window
John Barton, Langdale Crescent, Wigan has been photographing Sparrow Hawk kills in his back garden from the kitchen window
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photographer John Barton has captured some stunning wildlife - and all in the back garden of his Wigan home.

John snapped this stunning shot of a male sparrowhawk making a kill on the lawn of his garden from behind his rear kitchen window.

The 75-year-old former welding engineer says that he has witnessed at least half a dozen such heart-stopping lethal plunges in his own back garden near to the Heinz factory in Kitt Green - with blackbirds and doves the usual victims.

John, who has worked in some of the world’s deadliest trouble spots himself, including Baghdad, Tehran and Benghazi, said that the sightings show just how much this highly industrialised borough is being reclaimed by nature.

He has travelled to Scotland to witness the majesty of peregrine falcons, red kites and kingfishers and, as a member of the RSPB, does keep in touch with exciting twitcher sightings around the country.

But is delighted that some of the most dramatic have been right here in his own back garden.

John, of Langdale Crescent, says he seen a succession of sparrowhawks over the years feeding in his garden.

And that shows that they are successfully breeding in the area.

His photo shows a male sparrowhawk on a linnet it had just killed.

Mr Barton said: “The kill happens so fast that I have never actually seen it, just the sparrowhawk sitting on the lawn eating its prey.

“I suppose I have witnessed five or six kills here in my own tiny back garden over the years, which shows that they are breeding.

“Sometimes all I find is a pile of feathers, so other kills have taken place that I haven’t witnessed. My wife Nellie has sometimes opened the back door and there it is all happening in front of her.

“She calls me to come and have a look because it isn’t the type of thing you would expect to keep seeing in suburbia.

“There is a pole near to the Miners pub and I have seen a sparrowhawk perching on the top of that so maybe that is where it bases itself when hunting.”

Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust’s countryside manager Graham Workman said there was now a sustainable sparrowhawk population in the borough and more residents were getting the chance to witness this spectacular raptor.

He said: “They are adaptable and are discovering that they can make an easy kill in a back garden and if the food source continues there, they will keep coming back and back.

“I must congratulate John on taking a picture of a particularly fine male bird.”