Last week developed a Goshawk theme. A day in the Brecks on one of the few warm spring-like days so far resulted in some opportunistic top-of-forest watching, with views of a displaying pair in a regular location. Largely a bird of big forests, Goshawk has a small but increasing population in Thetford Forest with eight pairs located by regular observers last year. I then departed for a couple of days in deepest Wales, where despite deteriorating weather, I was lucky enough to see another couple of birds. The first was a male flushed from a woodland ride early in the morning. It weaved its way heavily between the trees carrying a lumpy prey item which appeared to be a crow. Landing in a small copse ahead of us to pluck the bird, we crept forward hopeful of a reasonable view, but typically it vanished in a couple of wing-beats, taking its breakfast with it. Later, it or another male was displaying over the woodland, pinpointing a possible nest site. Two UK studies have shown that crows and pigeons make up the bulk (around 68%) of the diet of Goshawks during the breeding season. This is similar to the diet of Dutch birds but different to those in Scandinavia where grouse make up a bigger percentage of the prey. The Goshawk has little competition in the UK. Peregrines are closest in diet but Goshawks are more versatile; taking prey in wooded landscapes and from the ground.
Locally in the Lee Valley area, I have only managed a paltry three birds in 40 years of birding, and one of those had jesses. Even four years of living in a house overlooking Epping Forest, where they are regularly claimed, resulted in nil sightings. The aforementioned bird with jesses; at Amwell in 1988, memorably took a Wood Pigeon with some force in flight, turning the pigeon into a firework explosion of feathers in the sky, followed by the gently descending feathery sparkles after the birds had long gone.