Springwatch 2009

The story untold …

It was towards the latter part of April 2009, when I received a phone call from a BBC researcher to ask whether or not I would be interested in working with the Springwatch team regarding Goshawks and their hunting techniques.

I of course accepted the offer without a second thought, and waited for them to confirm dates when we could start working together.

A couple of weeks went by when they confirmed that they would like to start work as soon as possible and would Tuesday 19th May be suitable.

The day arrived, along with an early morning mist, this could prove a problem if it didn’t lift, however by 11am the skies were clear, and we started work.

What the BBC had suggested was could we film the way a wild Goshawk would fly and hunt in its own environment. This would not normally have proved to be a problem at all, however my Goshawk had been put up for rest towards the end of February, and was now starting his moult.

After careful consideration I decided to pull the bird from his moult and start to prepare him for a one maybe two days of filming. With enough preparation before hand with regards fitness and weight control the bird was ready for the 19th.

Our task for the next two days was to demonstrate to the general public how a Goshawk fly s and hunts in such a clinical way and at speeds of over 50mph. The stage was set. In a secret location I had set up a particular task to push the hawk to its limits of flying ability.

The bird would fly from the fist over a distance of 50 meter’s and attempt to fly through a gap no bigger than 10 inches. When you bare in mind that this bird has probably got a wing span of nearly 2 ½ feet, the task seemed impossible.

Our first take was a disappointment and the hawk refused to fly the gap at all. With patience however, our second, third and fourth attempts were better, and it was only a matter of time before the hawk would realize what the game was about.

We broke for lunch and discussed the plans for the afternoon. Success at last. On our first take in the afternoon the bird went straight through the gap, and demonstrated with the help of the BBC camera’s just how versatile and aero-dynamic this hawk can be. (see film footage).

We of course attempted this task on a number of occasions and got the hawk working really

well, but we still didn’t have that perfect flight. This would have to wait until tomorrow.

Back in the same wood’s 24 hours later, we realized that because of the change in the weather, it was now overcast and raining, we might only get one chance at it. Everyone in the party realized this and added a level of excitement as well as pressure to achieve the ultimate footage required for something as special as the Springwatch programme.

We need not have worried. The hawk must have already decided that this was the one that would go down in film history. The camera’s were in position and everybody was ready for a make or break situation.

Ready, Ready, Go. The hawk left the fist like an exorcet missile and was through the gap before we could see what was happening. It was only when we re-ran the footage back that we all realized we had achieved something special that day.

To work with professionals like the BBC Springwatch team was a great thrill for me, and to acknowledge that it was my own hawk that demonstrated so wonderfully how Goshawks negotiate tight flying environments at tremendous speeds was for me the ultimate achievement.

My thanks go to the BBC for allowing me that opportunity, and also special thanks to Alvin Hambidge and Barbara Wilde for their superb still photographs covering the two days we were filming.

For any further information regarding the above or what activities I have to offer, please visit my website or send me an E-Mail



Paul Melton (Falconer), Wales Falconry