Mouth swabs to probe rare bird blood lines

09.02.2011

FORESTRY COMMISSION - Press Notice 14404

Image attached: Goshawk and chicks.

Goshawk chicks in Kielder Water & Forest Park are having their mouths swabbed in a bid to discover more about the creature′s blood lines in the 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) Northumberland wilderness.

The bird, once persecuted to extinction and which reappeared in Kielder in the 1960s, is one of the rarest in the UK and a special licence is required simply to visit its nest. Now monitoring by the Forestry Commission which includes ringing, weighing and measuring chicks is being stepped up to include taking a DNA sample.

Martin Davison, a Forestry Commission ornithologist, explained;

"Blood tests carried out two decades ago found that the local population derived from a single female – presumably the one which arrived in the forest 50 years ago. We are now seeking scientific proof that new bloodlines have since come into the forest. It’s an interesting project, but very much in its early days. We expect the results to confirm that the bird is drawing on a wider gene pool of unrelated birds. That is important because it makes for a healthier and more viable population. Goshawks are magnificent birds and it’s good see the population is stable.”

Rangers are staging three thrilling goshawks walk to raise the curtain on the Wild at Kielder season which celebrates the forest′s amazing wildlife. Male goshawks bid to impress potential mates with a thrilling “sky dance” in spring and walks take place at 10.30am and 1.30pm (5 March) and 9am to 12 noon (6 March). Booking is required on 01434 220242 and the cost is £6 adults, £5 concessions and £16 for a family of four.

Other great opportunities to sample Kielder’s wildlife include:

Deer Safaris, 20 and 27 April and 1 and 11 June – Kielder Castle/Bellingham

Bat Night, 30 April – Kielder Castle

Dawn Chorus, 1 May - Kielder Castle

Badger Watch, 6 and 14 May – Wark Forest

Owl Night, 13, 18 and 20 May – Kielder Castle

Richard Gilchrist, Chief Recreation Ranger, added:

“Kielder Water & Forest Park is the most tranquil spot in the UK according to the CPRE, but when it comes to animals it is like Piccadilly Circus! It′s a haven for some of the nation’s rarest creatures, including goshawks, red squirrels and even wild goats. This is a special place and these events are a great way to experience Mother Nature.”

Wild at Kielder season is being organised by the Kielder Partnership - for detail of other exciting events go to www.visitkielder.com/.

NOTE TO EDITOR

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more information go to www.forestry.gov.uk/NorthEastEngland.

Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351, mobile 0775 367 0038.

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