Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season

To: "'business'" <>, <>, "'shirleycook'" <>
Subject: Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season
From: "Stephen Ambrose" <>
Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2018 06:59:10 +1100

Hi All,


Steve Debus has requested that I send the following response to David Crawford’s latest comments (while Shirley Cook is temporarily absent from Birding-aus).


Stephen Ambrose

Ryde NSW


There are really only 2 points to make in response: (i) the 1980s work with radio (UHF) trackers was done in Kakadu (a protected area) and the results were long since made public (in 1991 then again in HANZAB 1993, and subsequently in public recovery plans etc.); and (ii) the current work on Cape York Peninsula – a different and threatened environment –  is with satellite transmitters, which  give much better data, in a proposed mining area so the researchers can identify key Red Goshawk areas and aspects of the birds’ ecology, so as to better understand and conserve them.  Richard Seaton was the instigator of the Red Goshawk Recovery Team.  Red Goshawk biologists are rightly reluctant to reveal nest sites, to protect them from intrusive twitchers/photographers as well as those who would deliberately harm them.  There are already well-known and ‘twitched’(and more accessible) nests that people can visit, though the pair at Mataranka moved nest after too much attention.


Field surveys in 2012–14 of Red Goshawks around  Weipa, and in south-east Qld, were published in Sunbird for 2014 and catalysed the Weipa research and the Recovery Team, respectively.  If Dr Seaton (AWC) and David Stewart (QDEHP) are driving the research and the Recovery Team then the results will assuredly be published when there are sufficient data.  Although my Weipa survey results were funded by Rio Tinto through Ecotone Environmental Services, Rio Tinto were amenable to publication.


Steve Debus


From: Birding-Aus <> On Behalf Of business
Sent: 26 December 2018 8:23 PM
To: ; shirleycook <>
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season


Hi Shirley

I did  not need nor ask for a introduction to whom Steve Debus is, he may be your friend and you agree with him but that is not to say that I have to have the same option. I not for one moment suggested that he or DES were doing anything illegal,I just believe it is very unethical to trap adult Red Goshawks when they are vulnerable and looking for a easy meal to take back to their hungry chicks.

On the matter of and I quote you " as Steve points out, it is only through this type of research that scientists are able to say with certainty that species are present or absent in sensitive areas " end of quote,is ridiculous. A bird survey with professional and skilled people in the same areas would yield very good low impact and zero stress results.

All I'm trying to do is to make the general public and bird enthusiasts aware of the methods used in this research and hopefully get the ethics community to review this ( in my opinion) barbaric research.

David Crawford

From: shirleycook

Sent: Wednesday, 26 December, 8:06 am

Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season

Dear David et al


You may have realised that I pass on to Steve Debus any relevant birding-aus posts that refer to raptors (and occasionally owls); Steve is not a subscriber.


I do this because I am fortunate enough not only is he a friend but because he is a nationally recognised authority on raptors and owls. As far as anyone being able to comment on research relating to these species, he is as "expert" as any we can find.  For example, if you have a copy of HANZAB Vol 2, page 980, you will see that Steve wrote the introductions to Falconiformes, Accipitridae and Falconidae.  In particular, his name appears everywhere in the references throughout the article on Red Goshawks.  All his and others' research is published – so "secrecy" is not an issue. Any search in scientific journals will come up with the relevant research reports.

The ethics of trapping , banding and/or radio tracking are carefully applied by scientists.  Whether or not it should be done in the first place is a separate issue with heated arguments for and against (and impossible to persuade "believers" to change sides, so please let us not open THAT debate).  However, as Steve points out, it is only through this type of research that scientists are able to say with certainty that species are present or absent in sensitive areas. 


It is understandable if the location of Red Goshawks' nesting sites are not widely revealed.  They are notoriously an elusive "target species" for birdwatchers and sometimes known nesting locations can be loved to death!  Compare this situation for instance, with Night Parrots; the Qld Govt has banned unauthorised access to their current known sites, so regular birdwatchers like you and me will NEVER see one unless we happen to stumble upon one while walking through Spinifex at night!


Shirley Cook


Sent: Tuesday, 25 December 2018 10:16 AM

Subject: [Birding-Aus] Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season


Hi  Mr. Debus


It might be fine for you to accuse some of the concerned  public as going off half-cocked about the latest Red Goshawk debacle but how can we be sure that it is not you also going off half-cocked with the information you provided. You talk about the valuable information received from the tracking research of Red Goshawks in the 80s , and that the data will be made public in due course for these current activities, surely sir 30 years should be enough time for the 80s results to be made public, it may have already been released but all we want is proof not just for the 80s but the current research, as we stand at the moment all we have is words. I agree that transmitters can fall off but I also believe that death is also possible if not likely and 1 death or failed nesting due to disturbance is 1 to many!!


Please help me understand, in the 80s certain research departments put trackers on 2 Red Goshawks and received “ invaluable data ” on movements territories and home range whilst breeding, then in 2015 a certain government department trap a female Red Goshawk and attached a tracker, the bird drops off the radar literally, they then trap one of this birds offspring  and attach a second tracker, they say that they were receiving invaluable data 12 months later. So here we are in 2018 /2019 an I believe if my information is correct under the guidance of yet another government department at least 4 other Red Goshawks were trapped and fitted with radio transmitters in 2018 with the promise of more of the same in 2019, if we already have this “ invaluable data ” Why Mr. Debus Why??


David Crawford



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