3rd Dec. Anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at this blog will realise I’m not in the habit of making wild dashes to see birds, no matter how rare they may be. Nevertheless, it surely would have been remiss of me if I had ended 2017 not having seen some local Hawfinches, there being so many of them in the UK at present. So, it was off to Mitford today with Sam, and this time to the correct site! The area was so very different from my visit a few weeks ago when autumnal colour was at its peak of brightness. Today, the duller hues of winter were to be seen but it was quite a lot warmer.
Through the binoculars I caught sight of what was a Hawfinch at mid height in the trees to the left but a couple of blokes with telescopes had a look of doubt on there faces. Anyway, I lost sight of the bird. After a while Sam got his eye on Hawfinches, three or four, near to where I’d seen one on our arrival. We had arrived kinda expecting easy and close sightings so had left the telescope in the boot, so Sam went off to fetch it. We eventually had some very good telescope sightings as the birds fed although at no time did they come down to the Hornbeams directly in front of us which might have allowed photographs, so there are none. The over all colour of the birds seemed to reflect the hues of winter. I never had the camera out of the bag all day and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. Sometimes best to watch nature and not feel you must capture an image of it. At least one Hawfinch appeared in the hedge behind us and no one was sure where it, and possibly one or two others, had appeared from.
So once again we prove that you don’t have to be an early worm to catch the birds. This was only my second sighting of Hawfinch in Northumberland, the other sighting being some years ago at the entrance to Hulne Park, which used to be quite a regular spot to find them.
There were lots of thrushes in the area today, in the main Redwings, but Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds too, and Siskin were flying over.
The Hawfinches seem to have captured the imagination of the locals, quite a few of them out walking dogs. From our experience I can only say watch where you put your feet! We give one guy a chance to see a Hawfinch through the telescope and he seemed quite chuffed about his sighting. We talked about the size of the bill and its strength and I wish I had remembered that according to Collin’s Birdguide it has a force of 50kg. A lifer for him I reckon. It’s good to share sightings with interested folk.
After a good while with the Hawfinches we left for Druridge and Cresswell, which we found extremely quiet, but we did enjoy watching the growing numbers of Twite at the burn entrance at East Chevington. They were at their best flying in two or three separate flocks in the sunlight. There were Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatchers on the shore, but we didn’t find the reported Snow Bunting. Later, we did watch a pair of Kingfishers at Cresswell Pond.
With my mind now on Hawfinch I checked out the Collin’s New Naturalist Monograph written by Guy Mountfort issued in the 1957. I saw the price on Amazon and decided I didn’t want it that desperately and that I ought to simply stick with the memories of good sightings of which I have several. Unfortunately, time dulls the memory and until I looked back on my notes I had clean forgotten that I had sightings of Hawfinch in Poland and Romania. I do have clear memories of the three Hawfinch seen in Sweden this year as they came down to a feeding station and those seen in Extremadura a few years ago when I clearly remember a walk across a bridge up to an old dilapidated building where we saw several Hawfinch in bushes near to the building. My best sighting of all however was when Sam and I watched a family of Hawfinches early morning in the garden of our accommodation in Hungary two or three years ago.
The scientific name for Hawfinch is Coccothraustes coccothraustes which is derived from the Greek kokkos meaning seed or kernel, and thrauo which means to break or shatter. The ornithologist Francis Willughby was first to use the common English name Hawfinch in 1676. Haw referring to the red berries of Hawthorn.