raptors, photography, urban wildlife

The Goshawk

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Right now I'm in Berlin. I'm staying at a German ornithologist's house, who I met last year through a shared interest in goshawks - or in German, "der habicht". Wildlife can bring people together, and without the goshawk, this week I wouldn't have sampled such culinary delights as "liver-cheese" or "mouse-bags" (not as bad as they sound). I've been out here twice previously - this time last year on a recce to find breeding territories (it's easier to find the nests before the trees are covered in leaves) and last Summer to photograph the fledglings as they flew the nest. I'm here now for the adults as it's prime time for their courtship, and I'll be back again this Summer to finish the project with the ringing of the nestlings.

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So far this trip, I've struggled with the weather, but I've seen a fair bit of courtship and territorial behaviour. The males have been nest building and bringing in food for the females to encourage them to copulate and the day before yesterday I had an awesome sight of a young male gos stealing prey from a sparrowhawk in mid-flight, which he presented to a female that had lost her mate just 3 or 4 weeks previously. These raptors, often given the moniker of "phantom of the forest" are extremely elusive in the UK and across most of their range, but in some European cities, individual birds have become habituated, giving us opportunities to study and photograph them in closer proximity than we ever have before.

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This is perhaps not the cleanest or sharpest photo I've ever taken, but I was truly privileged to witness this moment between 2 wild goshawks. I was also lucky to get a pretty clear view, as although they have come into the city, goshawks are still birds of the forest and like to hide amongst the boughs and branches.

I was hoping to start this blog with a post about my wildlife year so far, but I think this is just as relevant as it's because of my local patch that I'm here. I fell in love with urban raptors through watching my local peregrines in Bristol city centre. It is only through watching them and learning about their daily routines and struggles that I got interested in how the lives of other raptors that have chosen to make cities their homes compare and contrast.

You can see some of my Bristol peregrines on the Discover Wildlife website here, and can read a bit more about them on my photography blog. I'll be posting more pictures and stories about the goshawks as the project progresses and will be catching up with the wildlife back on my home turf very soon!