Monday 8 January 2024

New Year Goshawks

I spent most of the day wandering the forest trails and scanning the ridges, with Lunar for company. The weather was far from ideal, with heavy showers rolling in from the coast and periods of low cloud obscuring my view; I had to shelter under a large fir at one point, to avoid a drenching. A few Crossbills were flying around chipping loudly, but otherwise the forest trails were pretty quiet, with very few Siskins and other small birds around. Arriving in an open area I noticed a Brambling sitting with a handful of Chaffinches in the top of a tree. Switching to my scope, I then noticed the next few trees were full of Bramblings! I counted about 100 birds in all, with a few Chaffinches and Yellowhammers mixed in. 

With a sunny spell mid-morning, my hopes of a Goshawk making an appearance rose, and sure enough, a young male, clad in buff and black streaks powered out of the very same fir copse I'd sheltered in minutes earlier, and headed across the ridge and up the valley. He turned over a distant larch plantation, where he may have been born last year, and began to display, flying on stiff-wings, undertail puffed-out. I was hoping for an adult to erupt out of the forest and see him off, but he didn't provoke any interest. His efforts ignored, he faded into the distance.

With the sun illuminating the far side of the valley, I scanned with my scope, looking for a perched Gos. My gaze alighted on a pale shape that had me perplexed momentarily, before I realised it was a Jay, one of a pair leaping around in a larch tree. I then realised that at the top of the same tree sat an adult female Gos, enjoying the sunshine. She was a long way off, but I could imagine the noise the Jays were making, mobbing their nemesis. She ignored them but when she craned her neck to peer down at them, they took fright and flew off quickly into the cover of the woods. I decided to head back to the car so I could drive round there, but as it turned out, she soon left her perch and melted away.


As I approached the car, a Goshawk came flying towards me - an adult male this time. He headed across the valley in front of me. I didn't have my camera, so once he got level with me I managed a bit of phonescoped video of him flying past. He flapped steadily away, behind the nearest trees and I lost sight of him. 


After this flurry of activity, I decided to head to another part of the forest,  to see if there was any action. The weather had closed-in again with low cloud and a bit of drizzle in the air, so I didn't hold out much hope. Approaching the first open area with a view over the nearby valley, I was quite surprised to see the unmistakeable shape of a Goshawk heading across the valley, with great purpose. He flushed a group of about 30 Crossbills as he entered a stand of firs, which scattered across the top of the plantation. He vanished into the dark trees. A little later, I flushed another Gos from the edge of the forest as I emerged from a dark, dripping path into the weak winter daylight. I suspect she had been sitting out of the rain, watching the open land for potential prey and was quite surprised by my sudden appearance. It was a close view, but very brief and the last of my sightings for the day. I mooched about for a while longer until I could sense Lunar was getting weary, so we traipsed back along the trail in the gathering gloom.

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