I'd not seen a Hawfinch in UK since Christmas Day, 2008 when Lindsay and I were having a picnic lunch on Cannock Chase, and a female Hawfinch landed beside our car. It was my first self-found 'rarity' and I made what I subsequently considered to be a mistake by reporting the sighting on Birdguides. The bird hung around for a few months, and there was conflict between birders and the local community as birders decided to try and exclude the locals by erecting barriers at the entrance to the area that it was frequenting. I'm told that this even led to verbal abuse by birders which resulted in physical violence. I kept away from the site for a year or so, and have become very wary of reporting sightings since then.
This year there has been an amazing influx of Hawfinch into the country and, in spite of several visits to reported sites, I felt that I must be one of the only people in Leicestershire not to have seen one this winter! Wednesday dawned bright and sunny with sub-zero temperatures and no wind, and I decided to try and rectify the situation. I set off to Burbage Common, near Hinckley - a place where Hawfinch were being seen on a regular basis.
I'd had to think twice before going as I was without my usual camera. Having had my regular lens back from repair in time for me to take it to Scotland, on my return from Scotland I sent away my Nikon D7200 camera body to have oil spots on the sensor dealt with (again!). I have had to fall back on my old D300s. This has only half the number of pixels resolution, greatly reduced ability to work at high ISOs, and controls which differ somewhat from the D7200. My efforts during the morning suffered somewhat because of this!
As I slowed down near the site to park my car, out of nowhere a female Kestrel landed at the roadside approximately 6ft (2 metres) from my car, grabbed its prey, and flew off - all in an instant!
Entering the site, I immediately found a couple of Jays and a Redwing. Although I had several sightings of Jay during my time there I never did manage any shots. The Redwing was, unfortunately, keeping to an area of dappled light.
|Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - Burbage Common|
There were two other birders in the immediate area that I'd entered and they had seen a Hawfinch head into this area approximately 20 minutes earlier, so this was encouraging. However, after around half an hour nothing was being seen so I set off on a wider search.
I was surprised at the relatively large number of Robins that were around. Although a very common bird, I still find them delightful, and couldn't resist a few shots as I searched the area.
|Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Burbage Common|
With using a camera that I was not used to, it seems that I left my 'photographic head' at home. Therefore, when a Fox appeared heading towards me, and then ran past me with a dark background, I'd forgotten that the exposure compensation on my camera had been set to try and capture a Jay against the sky. I completely flunked the shots, the only vaguely salvageable shot being when it passed behind a pale-blue plastic covered hay bale - the pale colour causing the shutter speed to increase (I work on an 'aperture priority' setting). Here's the evidence of my failure!
|Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) - Burbage Common|
I'd been on site for nearly two hours and not seen a Hawfinch, and had stopped to talk with one of the gentlemen that I'd seen earlier. I'd just said to him that I was going to head homeward as I was expected at home for a late lunch, when we both spotted a Hawfinch fly across in front of us and land in the trees that border the railway line about 50 metres away. I took some distant record shots.
|Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) - Burbage Common|
We were joined by another birder, and then the Hawfinch dropped into the small copse to the left of us. We went to try and relocate it, keeping close to the trees that lined the railway tracks. It was eventually spotted on the ground through thick undergrowth only about 25 metres from our position. We watched it for a while whilst it bumbled around searching for food (absolutely no chance of a shot as only small bits of it were visible at any one time) and in the end there were five of us watching it. Eventually, it flew left and, I suspect, away. After a while with it not being spotted again I felt that I should return home for a (rather late!) late lunch.
As I left there was an unusually confiding Redwing between me and where I was heading - again in dappled light. Furthermore, I messed up again with having left my exposure compensation on an inappropriate setting (I'd dialled in a + compensation again for those Hawfinch images above). I did, however, get this corrected in time to get some shots.
|Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - Burbage Common|
Garden Lists - Weeks 04 (22/01/2018 to 28/01/2018) and 05 (29/01/2018 to 04/02/2018)
The number of species setting foot down in our garden was down in Week 04. This may partly be due to reduction in observation time - it was a busy week, and then I was away on my trip to Scotland from the Saturday morning. From the 'base list' Great Tit and Wren were noticeable by their absence, but Blackcap (a female) and Siskin (also a female) were welcome additions to the list.
Week 05 numbers were also down, but then I was away all week until the Friday afternoon - so only two and a half days of observation. GS Woodpecker was absent, but Great Tit and Wren put in an appearance, and Jackdaw was another welcome addition.
|2018, Week 04 - 22nd to 28th January|
|2018, Week 05 - 29th January to 4th February|
Whilst in Scotland, the weather was not kind to me, being very windy for virtually the whole time I was there, but I did manage to get some photos. My next post, all things being equal, will be a report on my Scottish visit. The photos are already processed!
Thank you for dropping by