Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A very memorable close encounter with a Goshawk, and a World Record holder.

My intended destination this morning was the Watton Brook valley with a view to finding migrants, however, an encounter with a juvenile Goshawk near Great Cressingham, Norfolk, curtailed my original plans.
At 0810 as I was driving towards Great Cressingham I noticed a large raptor fly from a roadside tree, it had all brown upperparts..and it wasn't a Buzzard.  I soon found a gap in the hedge and saw the bird flying along a hedge and then sweep up into an Oak tree, it was a juvenile Goshawk.  I could just glimpse the raptor through the leaves, however, it wasn't until some minutes later when it left the tree to fly along another hedge, it then turned as if to fly off and behind me. I stayed where I was close to the hedge when suddenly the Goshawk flew past me just above the ground to take the same route along the hedge and then alight in another nearby tree.  When the Goshawk passed me, it was at it closet no more than 20 feet from me, I was totally awestruck by the size of this mighty raptor and as it turned I could clearly see the streaked, buff underparts of the bird.  Several minutes later, the Goshawk flew away east, I therefore relocated myself further along the road where I hunkered down beside a tree.....and waited, some time passed by, then, a lot of noisy Crows told me something was up, then, the Goshawk appeared along a hedge line in close pursuit of a Crow.
Not only was this another lasting memory of one of the Goshawks on my patch, the very presence of this very large raptor sent Pigeons, Crows, and Finches, scattering everywhere, and provided a clear example of how this species causes panic and unsettling behaviour of all other birds in the area.

Given the excitement generated by the Goshawk, I remained in the area for some time and despite the panic caused by the raptor, I managed to see a good range of other common species in the area including a flock of 60+ Linnet, a few Swallows passing by, Bullfinches and Goldcrests in a mature hedge, a couple of Common Buzzards as well.  Of course, Wood Pigeons and Crows were plentiful and were edgy to the presence of the Goshawk.

Reeve's Pheasant Great Cressingham 21/09/13
Checking a nearby field edge where it meets mature wooded hedgerows, I noticed a distant large Pheasant at the far end of the field, it was an adult male Reeve's Pheasant.
A small population of Reeve's Pheasant occurs in this area of Breckland, this is a very large species which holds the record of having the longest tail feather of any bird in the world - up to 8 feet long.
Reeve's Pheasant were introduced into the UK in 1831 from their native China, it would appear that the Breckland area is the stronghold for what is an internationally endangered species.  It is thought that only 3000 Reeve's Pheasant exist in the wild in China.
The Reeve's Pheasant is much larger then the familiar Common Pheasant, this was apparent when both species were seen close to each other.  Reeve's is also a strong, robust looking bird with a muscular looking neck area and it was when Common Pheasants approached, the Reeve's appeared to puff itself up and adopt a more upright carriage, perhaps a threat to the other birds.  Reeve's Pheasant is known to show aggression towards humans.
Although only this single Reeve's Pheasant was seen today I have previously seen 6 males together close to Little Cressingham.

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