The Return of Pure Wild Blood from Finland
Dave and Andy Margereson
We first started to fly Goshawks from the beginning to the mid nineteen eighties, previous to that we had flown a range of different raptors including Sparrow hawks, Merlin's, Kestrels and Buzzards. This was until we met the late Eric Furniss from Derbyshire who invited us to go hunting with him and his Finnish Goshawk. We were utterly amazed at this male hawk, the size, temperament and hunting ability made us decide we wanted for ourselves.
Eric advised us to buy one from John Shaw in Derbyshire who bred Finnish Goshawks; accordingly we purchased a female from him. We then had many years of happy hunting with this hawk and decided to purchase a male Finnish Goshawk from Cliff Bramall of Northampton to pair up with our female and hopefully breed with them. We successfully bred with this pair for several years until one unfortunate day where the female killed the male.
After several attempts the male was replaced with a so called “Finnish” hawk from a reputable breeder. However the off spring were of no comparison in either size or temperament to the original pair, which we knew were of pure Finnish origin. After a lot of disappointment, and a discussion with friends over a few beers, we decided to try and obtain pure Finnish birds directly from Finland. We contacted the Finnish embassy in London, who gave us the telephone number of the Finnish Environment Institute in Helsinki, and this is the point at which our journey began.
The first person we contacted was a gentleman called Virgo Mettinen, who at that time was a minister of Finnish Environment, and he categorically said under no circumstances we would be able to bring any Goshawks out of Finland. This was our first and very major setback. He also said that to his knowledge no one bred them because it was illegal, and they were not even kept in zoos. He also informed us that Falconry was not permitted in Finland.
Our next step was to enquire if we could get any injured birds, which was also not possible as they were not kept if they were too injured to possibly return to the wild in the future. This went on from 1997 with constant letters and telephone calls trying to get through an extremely difficult language barrier until we met a Finnish gentleman, who later became a very good friend, and was working for an oil treatment company which we were testing oil for. After discussing the situation with him he offered to try and help with the communication barrier and took on the project for us with regards to the Finnish Environment Institute. He discovered that they were still trapping Goshawks on a movement license in Finland on certain estates, but were not allowed to kill them. We persisted in trying to establish how wide the scope was on this movement order, and if it would be as far as the UK. Our friend was in constant contact with the Finnish authorities i.e. The National History Museum who had to do a survey on the Goshawk population.
Then in October 2001 we received a very important phone call from our friend to say that the Finnish authorities were going to grant him with the cites permit. When he was granted the trapping license, which never occurred because the British authorities would not agree to it. In July 2002, after a big battle with our authorities in the UK, we eventually got a cites and trapping permit for ten wild Finnish Goshawks under certain conditions. The conditions being, we could only trap the birds between October and February, they could not be in adult plumage, none of the birds could be rung (same as the RSPB do in the UK), and all birds had to be micro chipped in Finland before entering the UK. After researching through the services of our friend and Finnish bird watchers (twitchers), we discovered the best place to trap the Goshawks was on the North West coast of Finland. First of all we flew out to Helsinki via Sweden in October 2002 where we was met by our friend who took us the three hours north to meet the keepers on an estate where they had permission to trap Goshawks. Over a period of time we managed to trap a considerable amount of birds, which we weighed and measured eventually picking five males and one female which we returned to the UK with. As we had cites for ten birds we flew out again in December 2002 and repeated the same procedure on a different estate in the North West region and then returned to the UK with two males and two females. All the birds had been micro chipped in Finland and went straight into quarantine for 30 days in the UK.We first produced off spring from this consignment of hawks in 2005, and since then we and our friends have flown these hawks and finally brought back the temperament, size, and hunting ability we had enjoyed in the 1980s. Our breeding project has now reached second generation and all Article 10’s are commercial, meaning we can now supply falconers with genuine Finnish Goshawks with the papers to prove it. Overall this journey was a great achievement for us and had been worth all the hard work especially as we were informed by one of the environmental ministers that no Goshawks had left Finland since 1979, and in his opinion, he could not see it ever happening again. Andy and Dave Margereson of Derbyshire-