Thursday, 22 February 2018
Blessed. There is no other word for it. This Hawfinch invasion continues to ramp up in northern Surrey and I am lucky enough to have been in the middle of it...
Dawn at Bramblehall Wood. The lower footpath has never looked so used. Position taken up against the fence, looking out across the field at the southern section of the wood and - crucially - up and down the valley (above). By 07.30 only c80 birds had shown, listlessly perched up, little movement taking place until they dribble away. Beginning to wonder if they are finally moving on, but then look down the valley northwards. Bloody hell, look at that lot perched up at the very top of the tree line - there must be hundreds! Edge down to get a better vantage point and start to count at the same time as they slowly - ever so slowly - start to move along the woodland edge southwards. They are going at a steady rate, not too many at once to confuse the count, a veritable conveyer belt of Hawfinches. I start to get edgy as 300 approaches, mindful that there are still birds in the trees to come. At 400 I secretly let out a cheer and, when 420 has been counted, all hell breaks lose - a massive 'whoosh' of wings alerts me to an enormous flock of 300+ birds that have returned and are now breaking up above my head, scattering in all directions, many of them back to where they had just come. There is little option but to abandon the count now. I am, quite frankly, stunned.
Although it is still early (08.15-ish) there is no hanging about. I want to check all of the sites where I have recorded Hawfinches over the past week and the largest flock (away from Bramblehall) was seen before 09.30hrs. By 09.00hrs parked up at Denbigh's Hillside NT and walking towards Dorking Wood (via footpath opposite St. Barnabas Church). Once in the wood the familiar ticks and seeps start up and am soon watching c30 Hawfinches, but they are mobile and quickly move away. When exiting the wood on the Bagden Farm footpath a scan along the wood's edge reveals a good flock in the same trees as where they were last Sunday. A quick count makes 60, but then, just like at Bramblehall earlier, Hawfinch mayhem breaks out. Two large flocks fly in from opposite directions, swarming around the perched finches and then leave in one mass of 170, back into the woods. I watch them go and then check for any remaining perched birds - there are 80! A minimum of 250 Hawfinches present. And that's not taking into account the 30 earlier. This is all getting a bit silly.
To cut it short I then looked at Chapelhill Wood (none), Freehold Wood (18), Polesden Lacey (formal garden, 13) and Ranmore Common (4).
This morning's Hawfinch total was 705 birds. Bloody ridiculous. Just like the Bramblehall birds, the Dorking Wood Hawfinches would appear to show best in the early morning. The other sites mentioned in the paragraph above adjoin the same valley as Dorking Wood. Frequent glances along its length produced the odd Hawfinch flying over or perched in view. They really are that easy here and no doubt there are still more to be found.