Friday, 27 February 2015

It couldn't be, could it?

Slightly confused by a large accipitor today seen from Tower Hide. I first saw it way off over the marina and instantly thought  Hen Harrier, always nice to see. Then all of a sudden I realised it didnt look quite right, it started powering to the right, morphing into a large heavy looking acciptor as it went.
Many will know I'm usually the first person to dismiss such claims of Gos, especially away from their strongholds, I usually say if you see a Gos you know it... but at this distance I was struggling.
It was a very large bird, clearly the size of a hen harrier at least, the undertail coverts were fully wrapped around the uppertail (giving the look of hen harrier on first look) the wings were fairly broad and it looked broad in the hips. The bird then headed back left and flushed just about every woodpigeon in the woods and then dissapeared.
As I have said I am usually the one who rubbishes these sorts of records, but I am very used to seeing displaying Sparrowhawks from this vantage point and this was instantly different due to size and bulk. I have seen large female sparrowhawks from here too, so do have prior knowledge as to what to expect in terms of behavior and size/shape. It actually did not look much smaller than the marsh harriers as they fly past that area, sparrowhawks certainly usually appear far smaller then them!
I took some very poor photos which are featured below. I admit they are not much use but I would really appreciate any comments as to why it could or couldnt be a Gos. Unfortunately apart from structure and flared undertail coverts I did not really get any plumage detail, partially due to attempted photography, now kicking myself! Photos taken with optical zoom only, no digital zoom and have only been cropped.

goshawk male ws 90-105cm
sparrowhawk fem ws 67-80
hen harrier ws 97-118
Woodpigeon ws 68-77

this is an uncropped version of the photo below showing distance

bulky body and width of wing visible (just about through pixilation!)
Again same photo cropped to show comparison size of woodpigeon on left at what looked like a similar distance

There is what looks like a gull in this image but not sure of comparative distance?

this shot shows the wing shape/length slightly better


  1. From recent personal experience, I feel that Goshawks suddenly became extinct in Norfolk at Christmas!
    Joking aside: what else could it be, except possibly a falconer's escape? Knowing how acute your eyesight is, I bet visually the shape alone said accipiter, though!

    I have twice seen decent Goshawk at Strump and twice over the garden (photo last year) so why not?

  2. Hi David, thanks for the comment. I'm pretty convinced it was a Gos, if not it was the biggest female sprawk I've ever seen. One was seen just east of strumpshaw an hour before which is an interesting coincidence, or more probably the same bird! I'll keep my eyes peeled in the coming days, although I suspect it is now long gone from this area.