Dangerous Beast #1Picked my old mate Dunc up from his folks' house and headed up to Harewood Whin tip to meet Chris and Jack. Sadly the gulls were very jumpy, mainly due to the regularly visiting falconer git who brings his birds to kill gulls. Today his Peregrine-type nailed a Herring Gull which fell in a pitiful spiral. Peregrines really are dangerous beasts, easily killing a bird like a Herring Gull which seems much bigger. No wonder all the gulls panic when this guy is around.
Luke the leucistic giant Great Black-backed Gull was getting in on the refuse action, holding centre stage on the freshly dumped rubbish. Nice to see the lad has almost made it through his first winter. His sibling was down in Essex; I wonder how he/she is getting on?
Here is Luke when I first saw him in early January in the slightly more attractive surroundings of a field near Heslington East. This bird was ringed on the nest with an identical sibling and a normal coloured sibling in Norway in Spring 2013.
Other than that, a skein of 44 Pink-footed Geese followed the Ouse north towards Lancashire; the first stage of their northward migration. and a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang or called on the hill.
Dangerous Beast #2It is this time of year when I start getting drawn to certain special species that are best seen in late winter/early spring. One of these is the Goshawk, a bird that has always fascinated me. I have seen quite a few of these awesome raptors over the years, mainly in the vicinity of well known stake-outs in the East Anglian Brecks and Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire. The best view I have ever had was one carrying a Woodpigeon in Poland that flew within 25 metres of me, but it was very brief. Other than that, I have had lots of sightings of displaying birds and circling birds, but I have still yet to see a perched bird and still yet to look one of these majestic birds in the eye! Well, at least until today!
Following some gen from Dunc, I tried a new spot in Wykeham Forest. Stopping and scanning every so often, I soon picked up a big white bird in a tree. This looked promising! Sure enough, scope views revealed a great big adult Goshawk. Awesome. I considered it to be a female as it looked massive and quite intimidating even, though it's well defined cap could be indicative of a male. I will call her 'she' for the purposes of this tale. She sat there glowering around the valley, surveying her space. Front on, she looked virtually all white, with big yellow feet, a dark cap and dark ear coverts. Occasionally I got a glimpse of that fiery red eye. Brilliant. After a bit she took off, glided round showing her glorious white undertail coverts that hung out the side of her tail, and off into the woods. Wow!
Amazingly, a few minutes later, the Gos flew in and landed in a pine tree, where she sat for the next 30 minutes. During this time, I could hear another bird calling further along the valley, a call I got familiar with by tuning into the New Forest Goshawk Webcam last spring! A very distinctive, almost chilling call. I did not see him. A Buzzard was perched further up the slope on a pine tree and I wondered whether it's presence was causing all this showy behaviour.
After a little while she went for a little fly, landing in another pine nearby. She turned round to reveal her broad brown back and showed how the big white super joined on the nape.When the sun shone, again that orange eye could be seen.
At about 4.45pm she launched forward off her branch and was enveloped in the gloom of the forest, leaving me exhilarated. I will be back soon to watch these special birds.