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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Jan 22, 2011

Goshawk: A Surprising Visitation

The universe seems determined to surprise me.  Not that I'm complaining.  I am in fact delighted and very grateful, especially since these surprises bring me such joy, but let me explain.... I  often stop at one of the parks I frequent before work, both of which have ponds.  I do this both to catch sight of wildlife and to relax a little before diving into the day.

Since I have moved, one of these parks has become somewhat inconvenient to visit before work, although not any other time. As a result, I have been spending more time at the other, where just this past summer I spotted an Osprey.  I didn't expect to see anything on this day since the pond had been, well, very quiet and still, with only a couple mallard females and their brood floating on it.  These females had been caught late in the breeding season and were waiting for the brood to mature before migration could take place for them.  So it was a sweet surprise to me when I stopped at this little park and was literally visited by a Goshawk just as I was getting ready to leave.  In fact she flew in behind me, just as I was in the act of turning off my camera to tuck away into it's case.  Needless to say the camera was immediately put back to work.
Missing tail feathers

Flying up
The most wonderful thing about this encounter is that the Goshawk didn't seem to care that I was there and perched, first on the concrete, and then on the railing of the observation deck at one end of the pond.  It seemed to me that she was very hungry.  She was in fact making the strangest, distressed sounds as she scanned the bushes next to the railing for birds, her usual prey.  This was a second year hawk just coming into her adult plumage, as you can tell by her tail, which is displaying only one or two feathers of slate gray while, the rest is juvenile brown, and her eyes which were already quite redish orange in color.

Goshawk spotted me

I honestly don't know why I keep referring to this bird as "she", since I have no idea if it is female or male.  It just seems appropriate, because it was so big, and I know that the female is naturally larger than the male.  However, I have never seen a male and female Goshawk together, so I can't say the bird was definitely a female.  In fact, I have only ever seen Goshawks in the distance and in flight.   In any case, this bird stayed perched where she was for quite some time, scanning the area for prey and didn't fly off  until I simply moved too close to her for her comfort in my efforts to get the best possible photos.

Goshawks are not typically city birds.  They prefer  forest to hunt in. In fact they excel at hunting in and amongst the trees, but it was the beginning of the fall migration season, and I imagine she was just passing through, although as I understand it Goshawks do not migrate very far.  Now juvenile Goshawks are very similar in appearance to juvenile Cooper's Hawks.  To distinguish between the two hawks, look for the Goshawk's broad, rather aggressive eyebrow which you can clearly see in the picture just above, if you click to enlarge it.

Goshawks are also much larger and broader in body structure and have heavier streaking through the chest area.   Goshawks are the largest of the accipiter family of hawks, so that there is usually no problems distinguishing an adult from other similar hawks, such as the Cooper's hawk, unless you have never seen one of course, and have no point of comparison.

Because I so rarely see Goshawks, and had never seen one up close, I was naturally excited and very much surprised.  So much so, that my photos all suffered a little due to camera shake; something that is unavoidable I'm afraid under those circumstances.  I also felt blessed, since this was the third such wonderful surprise I had experienced in this birdwatching season and have no vehicle to get out to those places were I would have a better chance of spotting birds such as this, or any other that I have yet to see.  I sincerely hope you have the same experience on your bird watching excursions.  There is nothing quite like it.

If you wish to learn more about this the Goshawk or similar species, just follow the links below:




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