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Letter: Many predators besides goshawks

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SIR – I have been following with interest the weekly correspondence regarding the goshawks in the Forest. There are two parties: one for and one against.

I was sitting on the fence until they killed about 20 of my white doves. They do eat wood pigeons, but if you will pardon the pun: white doves matter.

I thought readers may be interested in the view of a person who has spent the last 60 years 24/7 looking after and managing the wildlife in the local woods and countryside. I was a working class aristocrat (Jack Hargreaves’ words, not mine) – in other words a gamekeeper.

In the 1950s we used to try to impress our employees, dispatching everything with a hooked beak to protect our game and their nest. However, to be honest, in those days there were a lot more song birds than there are now. What I miss most is the nightingales and the turtle doves.

Now the evidence I give will be the truth, etc. The decline of song birds in our garden and the Forest has nothing to do with the goshawks. It is down to sparrow hawks, cats and magpies. They are the worst – they mob and plunder every nest they see.

At the moment the goshawks are feeding on wood pigeons, partridges and pheasants. They kill a bird at first light, eat part of it and then return in the late afternoon and eat the rest.

That is one thing I admire them for: they only eat what they want. In July when the young ones fledge they are a different kettle of fish, they just kill for fun.

A short time ago I was walking through the wood where I live and noticed a female goshawk fly off a kill. I thought at first it was a leveret but it turned out to be a muntjac kid a few days old. Most of this evidence is on video.

There is one other predator I would like to point my finger at – that’s the badger. They account for a lot of ground-nesting birds. The experts, for the want of a better word, tell us their staple diet is worms. If that was the case they would have a beak!

Peter Whitefield,

South Baddesley

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