Month: March 2015

March records

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Thank you to everyone for continuing to send in your records of sightings to GRMG. March has been another successful month for the group, with lots going on (see previous posts), and a busy time ahead! Once again, predictably it was the Common Buzzard that was the most frequent addition to our database this month, but closely followed by the Kestrel, which is good news. Third most commonly reported to us was the Sparrowhawk, and leading the owl species was the Tawny Owl. The ‘honorary raptor’ (at least from a surveying point of view), the Raven also put in a good showing this month. As usual, the records will be passed on to the county recorder, and disseminated to our various species ‘champions’.


Species information updates

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Raven (c) Mark A Hope
Raven (c) Mark A Hope

Our species information pages have now been updated with audio recordings of example calls of all of the species that GRMG monitors. There is only one recording per species, so it is in no way representative of the full repertoire of each bird, but hopefully some will find it to be a useful guide. In addition, all of the recordings have been listed on one single page to aide easy comparison.

Goshawk ID morning at New Fancy

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CBMnk4-UkAA9FKMA few notes from Rob regarding the Goshawk ID morning that GRMG hosted this morning, in preparation for the county-wide Goshawk survey…

The morning looked like it could be a washout when the group of a dozen or so set off to the top of New Fancy viewpoint.

Everyone introduced themselves and set out their intended surveying projects for the coming season, as the weather failed to cooperate with our best laid plans.

Eventually, there was a slight relenting of the drizzle and overcast conditions and the first bird spotted was a lone Buzzard struggling against a stiff breeze. It did not stay up for too long before finding refuge in the woods.

There was a few more scant views of Buzzards and the briefest sightings of a Goshawk but then, at last, we caught good view of a large female Goshawk. She was patrolling above her wood, riding the air currents along the ridge before finally returning to her original starting point. Proceeding to power over the woods in front of us, she showed her power and grace with deep wingbeats. On the upstroke of the wingbeat, she flashed white despite the low light conditions, and even the under tail coverts were obvious with a side on view. I think everyone enjoyed the show as short lived as it was.

A high soaring male also gave us good views of the extended wings, showing the spitfire wing profile (to my eye at least) and a further bird was sighted and followed at distance where the deep chest and deep wing beats were obvious, ruling out Sparrowhawk.

Despite the poor conditions, I felt it was very productive morning and had the impression everyone was enthused and better informed for the season ahead. It was great to see so many more goshawk enthusiasts on such an unpromising morning.

Common Buzzard and Goshawk Lead Poisoning

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Common Buzzard (c) Andrew Bluett
Common Buzzard (c) Andrew Bluett

Over the last two months the ICBP has had two birds admitted with cases of lead poisoning. This account explains further, and might help others recognise the symptoms in other birds in the wild. The first case was of a Common buzzard which was admitted to the hospital by a member of the public on 9th February 2015 over in Mansell Lacy, Hereford. The bird was in good condition with no signs of breaks but it could not open its feet. The bird was seen by the ICBP’s top avian vet Neil Forbes whose initial assessment was that of lead poisoning, so the bird was treated accordingly without a blood test. An X-ray was carried out and no lead shot was visible so we are pretty sure this bird has not been shot but has ingested the lead. After a further week and a halves treatment the bird’s feet did not improve so the bird was euthanized. The second bird was a male Goshawk which had ‘fallen from the sky’ in front of a couple of walkers along Poets Path in Red Marley. This male happened to be wearing a BTO ring which showed the bird had been rung by Robin Husbands in 2012 at a nest in in the Newent area. On initial examination there was no signs of breaks or wounds but the bird again had no use of its feet or legs which were outstretched and clenched, otherwise this bird was in fantastic condition. Whilst hospitalised the bird showed poor co-ordination and something called star gazing which could be from neurological damage or lead poisoning. The Goshawk was taken to the vets for a blood test and x-ray, of which the x-ray showed no signs of the bird containing shot, but the blood test did later confirm the bird had lead poisoning. When the vet rang up to confirm lead toxicity he explained clinical levels of lead reach 60-100, severe levels 100 + and this Goshawk over 150 (units of measurement unknown). We continued the treatment for lead poisoning but sadly the bird started to go down hill and died on 13/3/15.

Monitoring pollutants in predatory birds

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IMG_2117bThis poignant image was photographed on the hard shoulder of the M5. It’s a sad visual description of the dangers faced by our birds of prey every day – not just Barn Owls, as pictured here. This owl appears to have been in prime condition prior to what was almost certainly an RTA.  We have a document which you can download here, titled ‘What to do with a dead raptor’. Even in cases such as this Barn Owl, where it’s safe to say that the cause of death is already known, it’s still worth sending the carcass to the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS), who have been monitoring the levels of pollutants in predatory birds for over 40 years. More information on the scheme can be found here.
Many thanks to Andrew Bluett for the photograph, and for sending this carcass away to the PBMS.

Goshawk ID morning with GRMG

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GRMG will be running a Goshawk identification morning on March 28th 2015 at New Fancy View in the Forest of Dean from 10am. This identification morning is being run by GMRG member Robin Husbands, an experienced nest finder and ringer. Rob currently spends a lot of time studying, observing and monitoring Goshawks and has excellent knowledge of the species.

This morning is being run to help you identify Goshawk by sound and by sight, as well as outline some monitoring techniques to allow you to succeed in observing Goshawk in the field. Goshawks are regularly seen from New Fancy View so hopefully you will get a chance to see a Goshawk in flight on that morning.

We recently sent an email to those who attended our inaugural meeting regarding the Goshawk survey for Gloucestershire we are coordinating. If you didn’t attend this meeting but would like to support a county-wide Goshawk survey please get in touch via email (

We look forward to seeing you there.

Slow motion squirrel hunt (Smithsonian Channel)

Rob’s Goshawk Diaries

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Juvenile Goshawk, Forest of Dean (c) Ben Locke
Juvenile Goshawk, Forest of Dean (c) Ben Locke

Rob has updated his Goshawk Diary with the following entry…

Goshawk display in full swing now, excellent weather today for soaring birds bright and breezy.
Pairs are now nest refurbishing or prospecting for nest sites, spending more time around the nesting area proclaiming ownership of their territory by calling and displaying in and over the woodland, before the serious business of nesting gets underway, a great time to get out and survey any large tract of woodland for these fantastic raptors.
Males have become more obvious lately joining their mates on territory having been absent on some territories until recently probably making a living in slightly different locations to the dominant females.
Apart from actual nest locations, counting displaying birds is the next best way of counting the potential population of goshawks in our county.

Read the complete diary so far by downloading this document.