The long goodbye
I arrived at Bramblehall Wood shortly after dawn and had to wait for a good 15 minutes before the first two Hawfinches arrived. It then went very quiet again and, whilst wondering whether or not the flock had finally broken up, a number of birds arrived high from the top of Ashurst Rough. All the subsequent morning's action - over the course of 90 minutes - took place at the northern end of the wood, where a 100m long bank of Yew trees were being favoured. As with previous visits, the birds helped me no end with obtaining an accurate count by slowly, bird by bird, small flock by small flock, fly from the Yews, across the field, and into the opposite woodland at the base of the footpath. 275 was the 'not to shabby' final total, but undoubtably down on my two previous counts here of 600 and 550 (on March 13th and 20th respectively). There was little in the way of additional bundles of Hawfinches flying in to join the main flock and calling was much subdued - it felt like we are truly entering the final act in this winters amazing Hawfinch extravaganza...
I then embarked on a long circular walk to check up on nearby sites that have held them. First stop was Betchworth Quarry, where yesterday David Stubbs recorded 60+. I could only muster up three, even though I was on site for an hour and at the same time as he saw them 24 hours ago. Maybe they really are moving off. The adjacent quarry at Brockham (pictured above) held four birds, Box Hill 12, Lodge Hill two and Mickleham Downs 14. They were harder to come by than in recent weeks and incidences of hearing calling birds were much reduced.
The sun came out and, at times, it felt quite warm. A handful of Brimstone butterflies, two singing Chiffchaffs and up to 12 soaring Common Buzzards and two Red Kites made it most agreeable.