Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Martin's Flying Start to Keep Track of Feathered Friends

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Martin's Flying Start to Keep Track of Feathered Friends

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

TEN years of collecting have given ornithologist Martin Davison a flying start on the task of keeping track of a rare bird of prey. Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland is one of only two strongholds in the country for the goshawk.

It is hard to monitor the movements of individual birds because of the elusive nature of the goshawk and its size which makes handling difficult.

But Forestry Commission ornithologist Martin's collection of around 500 goshawk feathers means that his picture of the forest population is anything but a flight of fancy.

The markings, lines and colour of the primary wing feathers are peculiar to each goshawk.

"They are like fingerprints," says Martin, who lives in Ridsdale in Northumberland and has been studying birds at Kielder for more than 30 years.

Every year he collects feathers from the vicinity of goshawk nests.

By comparing the feathers with those in his collection he can tell if the female on the nest is the same bird as the previous year or if a newcomer has taken over.

"Goshawks are fairly faithful to nests and tend to use the same location every year," says Martin.

"Using this technique, the oldest bird we have on record at Kielder is 16 years old, which is pretty good going. " Martin has feathers from around 150 goshawks.

The feathers come from the female's tendency to moult while she is incubating on the nest.

"It is a good time for her to moult as the male is bringing her food and she does not need to hunt," says Martin.

Keeping tabs on individuals means that Martin can recommend to foresters that certain trees should be kept for as long as possible if they are used by productive nesting females.

"It is important because it is good to keep productive birds on the same site," he says.

Last year goshawk chicks in Kielder Water & Forest Park had their mouths swabbed in a DNA identification exercise. …

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