Hunting Hawfinch

Taken from the Juniper Top lower footpath, looking across the field towards Bramblehall Wood. You can get much closer to it than this, particularly at the start and end of the path. Scan both bare tree tops and the crowns of Yew for the Hawfinches.
I cannot get enough of them. As soon as I see or hear a Hawfinch, I want to see another. This current invasion has been one of my ornithological highlights, anytime, anywhere. And the fact that this event is not only easy to see but is also on my doorstep has bestowed upon it a personal note. So, what better than go out looking for them and try to hunt down new birds in new locations?

Last Sunday I thought that it would be worth checking Bramblehall Wood. The site is private, but you can look at its steep western flank from the footpath that runs along the bottom of Juniper Top and Ashurst Rough. On the OS map this path has a thick purple line running along it. At intervals you are afforded views across a narrow grassy field onto the steep yew clad slope of the wood. My choice of this wood was not inspired, as there have been Hawfinches recorded to the north, south, east and west of it. I arrived at 13.30hrs and within a few minutes had found a few of these finches sat atop a bare tree, and once I had settled down and started scanning it was clear that there were also birds buried deep in the yews (of which there are many). A minimum of 20 Hawfinches were present. After checking the top of Juniper Top (where a single singing bird was heard) I returned to find that birds were still in the general area.

This morning I targeted a new spot, that of the woods of Ranmore Common. An hour in Ashcombe Wood drew a blank, but then Dorking Wood came up trumps. I heard them before I saw them, a very noisy flock that kept high in the oak, beech and larch. For ten minutes I was able to sit and watch them flitting through the trees before they finally left the area. At least 25 were present (TQ14809 51276). Some 800m further north I came across another two. Bagden Wood and the high ground of Ranmore Common did not provide any more, although 5 Marsh Tits, a displaying Raven and a single Common Crossbill was ample reward.

Back to Bramblehall Wood, and I'm pleased that I did. In roughly the same area as last Sunday (TQ186524) there was a flock waiting for me, spread out over several tree tops. As I started to count most of them took to the air, circled and then departed north - 31 birds in all. There were 16 left in the trees. Even I can add those two figures up - 47. Each scan of the slope would show up ones and twos, so this is very much a minimum count.

Walking back to the Whitehill car park gives you a good view of Mickleham Downs, in particular the very steep south-southeastern slope. I always give it a scan and was delighted to see three of my bull-necked friends perched up and on show - only to be eclipsed by a flock of 13 that flew between me and them. A total of 16.

So, a bit of cold searching this morning has yielded 90 Hawfinches, and all on the 'uber patch' to boot. There are plenty of other places to search, but we are now running out of time.  They are certainly moving around - the big flock that was on Juniper Top last week hasn't been seen again, and Wes Attridge over at Capel had a big influx last Sunday that lasted but a day. Where have they gone? They're out there somewhere!


Sadly they don't do Newark!
Gibster said…
They aren't here on Skye, not that I've seen or heard anyway :(
Steve Gale said…
Maybe a flit too far for them Seth. Still you might see some next week!!
Gibster said…
Sandwiched between Langley Vale Farm, Priest Hill and anything else we can come up with - yeah!!!

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