Do Goshawks Stoop? Do Buzzards Buzz?

I often remind myself when out walking, of my ultra-smug claim that perhaps the most commonly seen raptor round my way is the legendarily-“shy” goshawk. Was it so imaginative I should go back and change it? No, not… quite that imaginative I think (-: . I sometimes wonder what our goshawks eat. I suppose it’s pigeons mainly; I saw a pile of pigeon feathers on the dense forestry floor just today. Very few rabbits round here. However I suspect one part of our food web is: ducks – fed lots of bread from humans whether it’s good for them or not (and we have plenty of healthy-looking ducks); herons eat the ducklings; I expect the goshawks eat the heron chicks. Lovely!

I gave up taking any zoom-eying equipment on my local walks a couple of years ago; by then I’d snapped most of the things I’ve ever seen round here. Of course I never quite brought my SX10 to bear on the Glossy Ibis that flew over my house and car that time )-: . Maybe that influenced my current bare-eyed policy, or maybe I was fed up with my old cameras’ limitations.

Anyway, today I was halfway up to the top of the ridge when a magpie made a squawking bee-line all the way down the slope to the trees, accompanied by a like-minded pigeon. [Note to self: try to work out why pigeons don’t call in flight or seem to have an alarm call. Maybe their wing-clapping alarm is enough?] By rights there should have been be a raptor back there – and sure enough there was. Could have been a buzzard soaring and occasionally flapping… only I don’t think a buzzard would have needed to flap so much, and distant though it was, I felt the shallow V of the wings with upturned ends should have been visible. Later, a buzzard in the same spot was readily identifiable. The earlier bird’s body seemed very pale for buzzard.

After a minute or two the mystery bird stopped faffing around and suddenly headed straight down the slope at about 30º, about 80 feet over my head. It folded its wings quite tightly, but at no point did it look anything like a peregrine, whose wing profile usually does look exactly like it’s supposed to when zooming downhill. Even before it reached me I thought I heard its feathers buzzing. Eventually I was certain I could, and it was the same sound I thought I’d heard a few seconds before, so that must have been a pretty loud buzz it made… as it was buzzing me.

Do buzzards make 300-yard straight-line attacks at high speed? If they do, do they buzz? And I should think that a bird that buzzed like that at, say, 50mph wouldn’t be good for 200mph.

I’ll count that as a positive identification, and a new habit!

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