Sunday, 20 March 2011

Hawk-watching

Second-calendar-year Northern Goshawk: still in essentially juvenile plumage, this bird would be hard to mistake for anything else (including Eurasian Sparrowhawk, even if the latter is often mistaken for the former). Note the buffish background wash to the streaked underparts, as well as wing shape and structure.
Just a quick post after a successful session looking for Goshawks (is there a better way to spend a warm morning in early spring?). I tried a site where a friend succeeded in seeing this difficult species last year, and was delighted to find a displaying pair which took to the wing within 10 minutes of the sun coming out. On their second showing the adults were joined by a second-calendar-year bird (above and below), and it was this individual that ended up coming closest.

The same second-calendar-year bird as above, more distantly but showing the classic cross-shaped profile when the wings are extended. The heavy body and rounded tail corners can be seen well here.
One of the adult birds photographed at the same time - even in this poor-quality record shot taken at great range (this is a close crop), the whiter, finely barred underparts, pale underwing and head pattern are evident.
For comparison, here is an adult female Eurasian Sparrowhawk I photographed at Falsterbo, Sweden, back in early September 2006. Note the longer, square-cornered, tail, more slender body and tail-base, and rather neckless jizz.
Even at great range, the in-flight profile of a 'Gos' is distinctive. Note the prominent head, deep breast and relatively broad 'arm' on the wing. 'Sprawks' never look like they mean business in the same way.
A couple of Eurasian Sparrowhawks also appeared during the morning and showed just how different these two Accipiter species really are. A few other good birds were in the area, too, including several singing Woodlarks, numerous Common Crossbills and Siskins, and my first Sand Martin of the year winging its way north.

2 comments:

  1. Really good to see the comparison between the two. It also helps to confirm that I saw a Goshawk flying over the Forest of Dean a couple of weeks ago. I also discovered later that the Fancy Lane area at Parkhead (where i was standing at the time while we were looking at houses in the area) is one of the best places to see them. Does help, I guess...

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  2. Hi Factor, funnily enough I had originally planned a day in the Forest of Dean to look at (and hopefully photograph) the species, but as the forecast was not good for the western half of the country I visited this site instead. If you check the March issue of Birdwatch there is an interesting feature by Conor Jameson on Britain's Goshawks, plus a few tips on where to see them. If you move to the Forest of Dean, however, it should be on the garden list before long!

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