In late January a dead bird of prey (right) was picked up in the Winter Garden by some of the gardeners who were working there. It was lying at the foot of a pine tree, and when they examined it they could not find any marks or damage and came to the conclusion that it must have collided with something. They measured the wing span (3 ft) and noticing that it had been ringed, removed the ring and gave it to me. The bird was identified as a Goshawk, a nationally scarce raptor, but with a good population in the New Forest. The information that I received showed that it was a female which had been ringed near Lyndhurst in May 2014. It was 604 days old when found.
Goshawks (left) bred in small numbers in the UK until the end of the 19th century, but because of persecution and habitat destruction they then became extinct. They were re-introduced in the 1960s, and even though they are quite widespread across the UK in suitable locations they are very secretive and remain difficult to see. They nest in mature woodlands and appear to mate for life. They are powerful predators and feed on other birds and small mammals. As with many raptors, the female is quite a lot larger than the male. In the days before the bird was found several pigeon carcasses were noticed around the Gardens, a sure sign that some bird of prey was about. It had possibly been attracted by the large flock of wood pigeons that are often present.
The RSPB, in its Date with Nature programme, has run a "nest cam" since 2006 at the Reptile Centre, just outside Lyndhurst on the Christchurch road, where the public can enjoy watching the birds at their nest. The programme will run again from April this year.