Sunday, 5 November 2017


Aren't birds amazing. We've only ever had Hawfinch wintering on patch once, that was during the first few months of 2006. Now guess where I found two (eagerly anticipated) Hawfinches today - exactly the same tree that I saw my first patch Hawfinch back in 2006!

Hawfinch records are few and far between around the Axe. As well as the wintering birds mentioned above (two until late Feb '06, increasing to three and then five before they departed in mid March) there's been four other patch records before today. Two of these were of single birds seen for one day a piece in a private garden in another part of Colyton, with the other two thankfully being in front of my eyes. In 2010 early in the morning of 27th October I watched two Hawfinch fly north up the river valley from the gateway north of Axmouth, and then on 3rd November a single bird flew west during a vis mig watch at Beer Stables. 

With the current invasion I had a feeling the best chance of a settled one here was probably where the Colyton birds wintered, there's plenty of field maple in this area which is one of their favoured food sources. This morning was my third time of trying Burnards Field Road within the past two weeks, and it was third time lucky as on arrival two hefty finches were sat on top of a... well the bare tree. Success! First patch Hawfinches since Nov 2010. I fired off a couple of record shots...

I'm glad I got these pics because soon after both birds dived down into trees behind and disappeared (just like the 2006 birds often did!).  I sent a text out but a couple of minutes later there was suddenly an explosion of Hawfinch calls (that lovely soft seep) and they both flew up out of the trees and off low to the south east. Such a shame they flew so soon, but it's always a treat to see this species in flight. Annoyingly I don't think they've been seen again, but would not bet against them or others coming back here.

These cherry stone-crackers were a great finale to a good couple of hours out this morning, when I spent my time whizzing round the patch at breakneck speed checking as many spots as possible. Redwings were far more evident today with small numbers everywhere, the most being at Lower Bruckland Ponds where 12 Fieldfare were also present, along with eight Chiffchaffs in the willows around the top pond. A Lesser Redpoll was feeding with a small flock of Chaffinch on the Borrow Pit, and I was surprised to see the Bridge Marsh Cattle Egret had been joined by a friend, now two present...

So a lovely morning was had. And it wasn't a bad sunrise either...

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