Tuesday, 9 January 2018
Hawfinches in the gloom
It's already starting to get dark outside (12.30hrs) before the day has even had the chance to get properly light. My trawl around the slopes of Mickleham this morning was therefore conducted under a stygian gloom (I love the word stygian). The main aim of the excursion was too see a few more winter flowers, and in this I was successful, with Rustyback, Box, Stinking Hellebore, Wild Candytuft, Spurge-laurel and Butcher's-broom being the highlights. The image above shows the disturbed chalky soil that is so loved by Wild Candytuft and Stinking Hellebore (below) in particular.
At about 10.35hrs I was on the western slopes of Mickleham Downs (which overlooks the village of Mickleham) when a Hawfinch flew into the top of a beech tree that was just ahead of me. A scan revealed that there were already six birds there. Over a ten minute period they flitted in, out and over the same tree before melting away. Twenty minutes later I was looking out over the same ridge from further east when a flock of 11 Hawfinches flew north, at tree top height, before all entering the woodland. Shortly afterwards a further two were sitting on a bare tree top from where the flock had first appeared. I'm confident that these were all different birds. This is my fifth visit to this site since the Hawfinch invasion began (primarily to look for these wonderful birds) and my first success. There are historical records of large Hawfinch flocks from Mickleham Downs (40-50 in April 1938), which would be nice to replicate. I'll be back...