Flock foraying

It had been a week since I last visited Bramblehall Wood to count the Hawfinches, although visits had been made to outlying areas in the past few days that suggested good numbers would still be present. On arrival at 06.15hrs three Hawfinches flew over Whitehill car park and by the time I reached my viewpoint overlooking the wood quite a few were already perched up in the bare tree tops, favouring the northern end (taster video above - the BBC Natural History Film Unit has nothing to worry about). At least 270 were counted, and when these birds moved along the tree-line in a northerly direction I carried on southwards. More birds soon arrived, coming from the south and also off the top of Ashurst Rough, mainly heading to where the earlier birds had been - as in recent visits a steady passage helped me to obtain an accurate count. When I reached an additional total of 280, a mass of 300 birds came back along the woodland edge, swirling in front of me before bursting through the treetops with many burying themselves deep into the Yews. At this point there was no choice but to abandon the count with a minimum of 550 being present, although plenty of birds were now calling from the Ashurst Rough slope. Were they new? Possibly. On my walk out it was obvious that several hundred had gathered at the point where the footpath returns to the car park, which I have not witnessed before. They were extremely noisy and would go on large flock forays, out over the open fields towards Mickleham Downs before returning to the wood once more (flock sizes of 50-80 on several occasions). There were times when I was standing directly beneath them, the noise an incessant electronic babble, but I could barely see a perched bird - then they would take off, a whoosh of wings and finally revealing themselves and their true number.

The rest of the morning was spent walking from site to site, checking for these delightful birds. In short I was able to locate the following: Mickleham Downs (80, much flock foraying here as well), Juniper Bottom (50), Lodge Hill (5), Box Hill (16), Middlehill Wood (85, north-east of Bramblehall), Ashcombe Wood (4, east of Dorking Wood) and Norbury Park (5). I returned to the car through Juniper Top and back along Juniper Bottom - by then it was 12.30hrs and very few birds were seen.

At one point (c08.30hrs) I stood at the gateway in Whitehill car park looking eastwards. Over the fields were two flocks circling (60 and 85), there were birds calling all around me, and further (small) numbers were viewable with each and every scan of viewable tree lines. They were everywhere. Today's combined total is of 795 birds. I cannot possibly have seen or found them all - I wouldn't mind betting that the general area is holding 1,000+.


Arjun Dutta said…
Not many around any more then Steve!
Steve Gale said…
There's still time Arjun!
They are going to take over and kill us all! They with their massive crushing beaks!
Ric said…
Being able to hide in places you wouldn't think possible, appears to be a skill of Hawfinches Steve.
I've mentioned to several other birders out looking for them, that they could be calling in a bare tree over head, at no range at all, but still hidden from view.
Only when they fly off do they reveal themselves.
Steve Gale said…
Too right Ric. I'm starting to believe that they have magical powers!

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