Population of the Goshawk in SW Northumberland

All the data in Table 1 refers to the study area in south west Northumberland. There is a worrying decline in this raptor over the noughties. Rather ironic comment made for 2001: “Best year to date. Gamekeepers found access difficult in spring. Also perhaps growing acceptance of this raptor: it does kill a lot of pigeons”. Over the last few years it is clear that although birds inevitably recolonise new areas each spring, breeding is not tolerated. The area is a classical sink for the species. For instance the data for 2013 continues the very poor results since 2010 with birds noted at only 7-8 sites from 2010-2013, compared to 10-14 sites from 2006-2009. After a brief revival in 2014 when 4 young fledged in 2 broods, 2015 reached a new nadir with the number of sites reaching the lowest in the study since 1996 of 4 and no broods noted. And 2016 saw a further decline to 2 sites though 3 juveniles were apparently in occupation.

Year

Number of localities where signs of occupation

Number of broods

Number of juveniles fledged

1996

16

3

5

1997

11

5

9

1998

12

3

5

1999

7

2

3

2000

12

4

5

2001

15

10

15

2002

11

6

10

2003

16

8

11

2004

12

5

8

2005

9

5

6

2006

13

3

3

2007

14

1

2

2008

13

0

0

2009

10

2

3 (1x2, 1x1+)

2010

8

3

3 (3x1+)

2011

7

0

0

2012

7

2

2 (2x1+)

2013

7

1

2 (1x2)

2014

5

2

4 (2x2)

2015

4

0

0

2016

2

2

3 (1x2, 1x1+)

Table 1: Numbers of Goshawk found from 1996-2016 in SW Northumberland

More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2008 are available in Table 2.

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

2

2

0

0

2

0

1

Allen

2

3

0

1

1

0

0

Upper South Tyne

2

3

0

0

2

0

0

Lower South Tyne

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Tyne

5

7

0

2

3

0

0

Derwent

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Total

13

17

0

3

10

0

1

Table 2: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2008


What dreadful results. Last year it was emphasised that the results needed careful interpretation as Goshawk is number 3 in priority in the study and visits are only made primarily to locate this species in February-April before the Honey-buzzard and Hobby return. However, two years in a row where high spring numbers have been followed by very low or non-existent numbers of juveniles and very few adults in summer and early autumn do suggest something is wrong and human persecution of the species must be suspected. In the main grouse rearing areas the Goshawk is now very scarce. The main pheasant rearing areas (Tyne Valley, Lower South Tyne and parts of Hexhamshire and Allen) which did offer some refuge for the Goshawk unfortunately now appear to be acting as sink areas for juvenile Goshawk bred in the Border Forests, where there is much less persecution but also less medium-sized avian prey. Such actions probably increase Honey-buzzard breeding success as the Goshawk is one of its predators. However, as said before, we are not farming Honey-buzzards which have to take their chance with the Goshawk, just as they do in a natural balance on the continent. The outcome for the 2006-7 seasons was similar.


More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2009 are available in Table 3.

Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

2

0

1

0

1

2

1

Allen

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

0

0

0

1

0

1

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne

4

3

1

0

3

1

1

Derwent

2

3

0

1

1

0

0

Total

10

7

2

2

6

3

3

Table 3: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2009

Data shows a continuing decline with records from just 10 sites, down from 13 in 2008, but some resilience with confirmed and probable breeding at 4 sites. While the decline should be good for Honey-buzzard, I'm not sure it makes that much difference as the 4 sites with most evidence are all close to successful Honey-buzzard sites. Suspect there's so much easier prey around for Goshawk (pigeons, corvids, rabbits) that they're not interested in taking raptors the size of Honey-buzzard, which while they have a weak bill do have powerful talons (for digging). SW Northumberland is still a sink area for the species with juveniles fledged from the Border Forests happily moving into the area with its abundant prey and then being shot. As in 2008 the Tyne Valley is the area where they seem to survive slightly better. As with the Hobby, there is greater confidence this year that fledged juveniles were not missed in September. However, 3 juveniles were seen at sites from August-October where no birds seen earlier. While these may represent local success, they could also have been fledged elsewhere so are in the Possible category.


More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2010 are available in Table 4.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

1

2

0

1

0

0

1

Allen

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

1

1

0

0

1

1

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

3

2

0

1

2

0

1

Tyne E

1

1

1

0

0

1

0

Derwent

1

1

1

0

0

1

0

Total

8

8

3

2

3

3

3

Table 4: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2010


The results shows the decline continuing but at a slower pace with records from just 8 sites, down from 10 in 2009. It is still the second lowest annual total in the study over 15 years, only 1999 being worse with 7 sites. Five sites occupied in 2009 were vacant this year and 3 new sites were occupied. While the decline should be good for Honey-buzzard, I'm not sure it makes that much difference as the 3 sites where Goshawk bred successfully were also sites where Honey-buzzard bred successfully. Suspect there's so much easier prey around for Goshawk that they're not interested in taking raptors the size of Honey-buzzard. SW Northumberland is still a sink area for the species with juveniles fledged from the Border Forests happily moving into the area with its abundant prey and then being shot. As in 2009 the Tyne Valley is the area where they seem to survive slightly better but the Red Kite situation here does not suggest a happy picture. Again 3 juveniles were seen at sites from July-September where no birds seen earlier. While these may represent local success, they could also have been fledged elsewhere so are in the Possible category.

More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2011 are available in Table 5.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Allen

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Upper South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lower South Tyne

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Tyne W

2

2

0

1

1

0

0

Tyne E

3

3

0

0

3

0

0

Derwent

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

7

7

0

1

6

0

0

Table 5: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2011


The poorest year to date with no more than single birds seen at 7 sites and no juveniles seen anywhere in the study area. The Tyne Valley to the E of Hexham continues to provide most of the sightings. The Goshawk on this form is no longer a breeding species in the study area though its secrecy means that one or two pairs may have bred undetected. The habitat is very suitable for the species and there is abundant prey with many rabbit and pigeons. Persecution by game interests is thought to be the culprit in the species decline.

More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2012 are available in Table 6.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Allen

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

0

0

0

1

0

1

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

3

3

0

1

2

0

0

Tyne E

1

2

1

0

0

1

0

Derwent

2

0

1

0

1

1

1

Total

7

5

2

1

4

2

2

Table 6: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2012


On the surface another abysmal year as in 2011. However, 4 juveniles were seen, 2 of which at least were thought to have been bred locally. Only at one site, Wylam E, was ideal breeding evidence obtained with a pair of adult present in early June and a juvenile in late August. The technique used for Honey-buzzard is far from ideal for Goshawk recording as first visits are made in May/June, when Goshawk are keeping a low profile; so breeding pairs may well not be picked up at this stage. On the other hand the later visits for Honey-buzzard in August/September are well timed for detecting locally-bred Goshawk juveniles. The Tyne Valley to the E of Hexham continues to provide most of the sightings. The habitat remains very suitable for the species and there is abundant prey with many rabbit and pigeons. Persecution by game interests is thought to be the culprit in the species decline.

More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2013 are available in Table 7.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Allen

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

0

1

0

0

2

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

Tyne E

2

2

0

1

1

0

0

Derwent

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

Total

7

6

1

3

3

2

0

Table 7: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2013


The very poor performance of recent years continued with birds noted at only 7-8 sites from 2010-2013, compared to 10-14 sites from 2006-2009. Even the one apparent breeding success is not definite as no adults were seen at Towsbank but it has been a regular site and the 2 juveniles present together have been taken at face value. There is no concentration of the sightings, just a thin scattering across the study area. The technique used for Honey-buzzard is far from ideal for Goshawk recording as first visits are made in May/June, when Goshawk are keeping a low profile; so breeding pairs may well not be picked up at this stage. On the other hand the later visits for Honey-buzzard in August/September are well timed for detecting locally-bred Goshawk juveniles. The habitat remains very suitable for the species and there is abundant prey with many rabbit and pigeons. Persecution by game interests is thought to be the culprit in the species decline.

More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2014 are available in Table 8.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

Allen

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

3

3

1

1

1

2

0

Tyne E

1

2

1

0

0

2

0

Derwent

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

5

6

2

2

1

4

0

Table 8: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2014


This was the lowest number of sites occupied in the breeding season since the study started in 1996. The only mitigation was that 2 pairs were successful, raising 4 young, the most raised since 2005. The Tyne Valley produced 4 out of the 5 sites, with success at Wylam and Corbridge perhaps reflecting gaps in gamekeeper activity. The habitat remains very suitable for the species and there is abundant prey with many rabbit and pigeons.

More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2015 are available in Table 9.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

2

0

0

0

2

0

0

Allen

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne E

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Derwent

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Total

4

1

0

0

2

0

0

Table 9: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2015


This was the poorest breeding season since the study started in 1996 with no birds at all noted in the Tyne Valley W and E which had had residual pockets of colonisation from better times. At the 4 sites at which transient occupation noted, only 1 bird was definitely an adult, suggesting that these birds were doomed immature wanderers from the healthy Border Forest population. Game interests have succeeded in virtually eliminating the species from SW Northumberland. The habitat remains very suitable for the species and there is abundant prey with many rabbit and pigeons.



More details of the Goshawk breeding season for 2016 are available in Table 10.


Area

No. sites

No. adults

Breeding Category

Juveniles

Conf

Prob

Poss


Local-fledge

Also seen

Devil’s Water

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Allen

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Upper South Tyne

1

0

1

0

0

2

0

Lower South Tyne

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne W

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tyne E

1

0

1

0

0

1

0

Derwent

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

2

0

2

0

0

3 (1x2, 1x1+)

0

Table 10: Breeding Data for Goshawk in SW Northumberland by area in 2016


No adults were seen at any time but juveniles were recorded in August at former regular sites: Towsbank - 2 juvenile male birds, with some diving display; they were near Honey-buzzard, both juvenile and male, but made no effort to attack them; they also ignored Red Kite; Wylam - a juvenile female Goshawk flapping over Horsley Wood in very aggressive style; this is one of the very few places where they appear to breed in the study area, which is very sad, even if they might eat the occasional Honey-buzzard. The youngsters looked to be locally fledged but in cases such as these, the decision is subjective to some extent. It's a dismal picture: the landowners suffer from plagues of Woodpigeon, yet destroy a species, which would be a great ally to them from the farming point of view, to aid the Pheasant shooting.


Multimedia for Goshawk in Northumberland:


Styford, 20 August 2011, video, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5  6, of adult female.

Whickhope (Border Forest, out of study area) , 17 May 2011, video, with derived stills 1  2  3  4  5, of adult male.

Riding Mill, 23 April 2011, video of displaying male.

Stocksfield, 25 July 2010, video of a juvenile flying over.

Haltwhistle, 11 September 2009, video of a juvenile floating around.

March Burn, 17 August 2009, video of a juvenile flying through.

Staward, 1 March 2009, video of immature male soaring.

Lambley, 2 September 2008, video of adult male moving away.


Multimedia for Goshawk elsewhere:


Berlin Zoo, 13 January 2011, stills 1  2  3  4 of first-winter Goshawk, presumed female from large size, perched on a tree.



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