Thanks to those who answered this post. Here's a summary of responses which were very educational, not so much about the actual identity of the bird, but the take-home messages for me as a bird photographer. Which have been said many times before but still ...
- identifying difficult birds from a single view or a photo can be hard or impossible. Without call, giss/jiz (how do you spell it?), or alternate viewpoints half the information is missing, and lighting in a single view can add great confusion by changing colours and giving false impressions of dark/light patches, or losing or overly emphasising some characteristic. (On the other hand a photo does have the advantage that it exists in front of the puzzled observer for ever to allow detailed comparison with guides and books, unlike an ephemeral field sighting which can be contaminated by later thoughts and inputs).
- birders have to make calls on identifying between similar birds but there is often plenty of room for doubt despite how certain we can be as individuals (something which must make the work of the rarities panel quite difficult).
- even obvious things like "long toes" can mean very different things to different people and have to be used with caution.
Below's extracts of responses, some of which were in another conversation of which I was unaware until later. With the exception of Philip's informative post to the chatline, I've anonymised them to remove possible embarrassment although no embarrassment would be called for. I doubt we will ever know for sure since later sightings might not be the same bird. As far as I know all responders are knowledgeable birders, some extremely so.
For what it's worth I'm going back to my original call, which was Goshawk knowing this goes against opinions of some vastly better birders than me. I didn't really see the bird other than in the photographed location.
Don?t worry about being confused xxx, beyond an obvious female Goshawk or male Sparrow-hawk, the in between zone is much more difficult than people would have you believe especially when trying to work from photos as apposed to seeing the bird in the flesh.
If ever I've seen an obvious photo of a Goshawk that is it. Tail shape, feet, eye ridge, beak size........
I vote for immature Collared Sparrowhawk going by the stare which strikes me as "wide eyed" rather than the "heavily hooded" glare of a Brown Goshawk.
I would put my bet on your bird being a Brown Goshawk.
I?d say pretty certainly a sparrowhawk, given the very clear view of the diagnostic toes. ... While the sparrowhawk does not have the scowling brow, it does have a little ridge above the eye that does not overbear it ... The tail is in moult so not that much help.
For what its worth, and based on things like the G Dabb ID lessons, I reckon it?s a Goshawk. It has a bit of a cranky look, and the middle toe really isn?t very long compared to some of the winkle-pickers I have seen in photos of Sparrowhawks.
I was looking at your hawk shots from Callum Brae, and based on the long middle toes and skinny shanks I think they are Collared Sparrowhawks.
I reckon that the ... photo... show a male Brown Goshawk. I'd argue that the middle toe is too short and thick for Collared Sparrowhawk, that the brow-ridge is typical for Brown Goshawk and too heavy for a sparrowhawk, that the tarsus is a bit too stout for a Collared Sparrowhawk, and that the tail shape (funny though it is) can only fit Brown Gos. The tail of the... bird could be moulting, and I suspect that t2 and t3 are growing, not full length; t1 seems to be retained juvenile, t6 is probably first basic. (It was) reported a few years ago that in Brown Gos, the tail of juvs is slighlty longer than that of adults. I looked for this effect in Collared Sparrowhawk and couldn't find it. Maybe I should look again - if it's only Brown Gos in which juv tail is longer than ad tail, then there might be a new ID feature to work with on moulting birds.
I must admit when I saw ...the photos I thought, sparrowhawk...