Our Wild Things columnist ERIC BROWN turns a spotlight on wildlife, the joy it can bring and some of the challenges it faces. This week he focuses on one of Britain's most secretive birds in a wildlife-rich forest.

Some of our wildlife can be so elusive people spend a lifetime trying to catch a glimpse of it.

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How many seasoned naturalists still yearn for a British wild otter sighting? Or a wildcat or a pine marten? Well there’s me for one. Secretive birds such as corncrake and quail may be heard briefly but are rarely seen.

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Then there’s the goshawk. This flight-master spends its life weaving on specially adapted wings between the branches and trunks in dense forests far from human eyes, hunting grey squirrels and small birds.

There are around 400 pairs in Britain but the goshawk is among our least observed birds. I have seen only three in more than 50 years birdwatching.

One of those was in the New Forest. A new book lifts a curtain of secrecy surrounding goshawks and even reveals details of their New Forest breeding habits.

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American and Austrian companies commissioned cameraman and filmmaker James Aldred to film goshawks at the nest in 2020 so he obtained a licence and erected a tree hide in the New Forest where several pairs live. What followed resulted in an extraordinary book “Goshawk Summer.” Aldred’s observations from nest-building to egg laying, hatching, chick feeding and fledging are spellbinding and educational. So are his musings on other forest inhabitants like curlew, foxes, grey squirrels, badgers, ponies and dragonflies.


He kept filming as visitors disappeared into lockdown. When the forest fell silent, the birds, animals and insects confidently revealed themselves.

Also enchanting is Lev Parikian’s Light Rains Sometimes Fall, a study of nature around the parks, woods and cemeteries near his south London home. Whether he’s writing of wild flowers, foxes, birds, bats or insects his lyrical prose brings a touch of warmth and wit to his subject.

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There is nothing rare here, just admiration for the things we can all discover if we look closely enough: bramble, woodlouse, lichen, dragonfly, fox and much more.

Both superbly written books would make wonderful Christmas presents for wildlife enthusiasts.

Goshawk Summer by James Aldred and Light Rains Sometime Fall by Lev Parikian are both published by Elliott & Thompson price £14.99.