Moving to the countryside: Part 22: Firecrests and goshawks

April warmth brings a host of interesting species

Published: April 26th, 2013 at 11:10 am


Spring has sprung

The grass is riz and the boids are everywhere. After that awful March, we’ve had some fine dry days and the great pent up spring has burst forth with the first bees, butterflies and other insects emerging.

By now (late April), the dawn chorus is at its height, dominated by mistle thrushes, song thrushes, great tits, blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, blackcaps and chiffchaffs.

A great spotted woodpecker is on drums while goldcrests, blue tits, nuthatches, wood pigeons and siskins provide a softer backing choir. We've even had bursts of wood and willow warbler…

It’s almost just as loud at dusk, with the birds singing on into night until tawny owls take over.

But we’ve had a few unfamiliar species coming through, too. One cool Thursday evening I was working in the greenhouse when I heard a strange goldcrest song – thin and needling and yet not the familiar call of this tiny bird. What if it wasn’t a goldcrest?

I ran in to grab my binoculars and fortunately the bird was still singing – infact, there were three birds singing the same high-pitched, cascade of song. Finally I tracked one down, my binoculars snagging on its brilliant flash of a fiery crest. Yes, it was indeed a firecrest – quite a rarity and I had three of them. I was elated. Within 20 minutes, they’d moved on out of the garden and into the woods beyond, leaving my patch to their dowdier but equally diminutive goldcrest cousins.

Not so surprising considering the acres of conifers in the vicinity was a goshawk pelting overhead. It was as big as a buzzard but with distinctive bars on the underside of its wings and tail. And, while buzzards wander around the thermals, this bird had purpose – direct, hard flying with one brief soar before it plunged into a lonely woodland ride and vanished.


A few days later I came across a few bloody mammalian remains on one of the woodland paths – I took the jawbone home to confirm my initial thoughts: it was a grey squirrel. And I’ll bet it was a victim of a goshawk. 


Fergus CollinsEditor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

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