Birdwatch: Deep plunging show marks return of spectacular ritual

The goshawk is still struggling against the onslaught from gamekeepers.                       Picture: Rossparry.co.uk/RSPB

The goshawk is still struggling against the onslaught from gamekeepers. Picture: Rossparry.co.uk/RSPB

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GOSHAWKS are starting their spring displays over the woodlands where they will nest.

Both sexes display but it is the female that plays a key role.

The display flight consists of slow lazy exaggerated flapping with the wings raised and lowered well above or below the horizontal.

The most spectacular part is a switch-back when one of the pair makes a fast deep plunge before suddenly shooting up again with the wings folded tight to the body.

The pair will also engage in high circling on extended wings, spreading their tails to show the white under coverts and calling loudly. Once paired they build a nest and stay together for life.

Goshawks look like large sparrowhawks and the male is a similar size but the female is much larger, nearly as large as a male buzzard.

Like sparrowhawks, Goshawks strike in ambush from concealed perches but take larger prey such as crows, rabbits, squirrels, and grouse.

Goshawks, along with hen harriers, peregrine falcons and buzzards, continue to be illegally persecuted by some gamekeepers who shoot the adults and destroy nests.

The Peak District is notorious for the persecution of raptors such as goshawks, peregrine falcons short-eared owls and hen harriers with the disappearance of more than ten pairs of goshawks from an area that was once one of the best places in the country to see them.

The National Trust, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Peak District National Park and RSPB, working with the police and volunteer wardens have achieved some improvements but much remains to be done.

They have also been helped by the successful prosecutions of two offenders resulting in fines and costs amounting to thousands of pounds plus suspended sentences or community service.

A more stringent deterrent came in Scotland last year when, for the first time in the UK, gamekeeper, George Mutch was jailed for four months for illegally killing a goshawk, illegal use of a trap and illegal taking of a buzzard and a second goshawk.

Many birders are reluctant to disclose potential goshawk breeding sites but one well publicised location to see them is from the raptor viewpoint at Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire where at least six have been reported displaying in the past few days.

A drake American wigeon was first seen at Scalby Mills, Scarborough on Saturday and was still there this week while another transatlantic vagrant, a drake surf scoter, continued its lengthy stay in Filey Bay.

Kumlien’s gulls, a North American race of Iceland gull, were reported at Hampole, South Yorkshire, Wintersett reservoir and at Barmston south of Bridlington.

A male and female or immature black redstart were still being seen on the new Waverley housing estate at Orgreave, while another was seen on the beach at Primrose Valley, Filey, and a flock of around 20 snow buntings was reported near Ingleborough’s summit.

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