Wednesday, 4 May 2016


First up - a big thank you to Jerry for being so generous - letting us share his magnificent Hawfinches. I was expecting big things but having thirty one Hawfinches on the ground within twenty feet of you was literally breath-taking - a vision to be treasured.

When Martin offered me a couple of days photography on Hawfinches how could I ever refuse. Hawfinches have been high on the photo list for a long time and such chances don't come often.  We set off west on the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend, of course Martin had a plan for some birding on the way - a visit to WWT Slimbridge to try and locate some of the Cranes from the Great Crane Project - more of this later.

We stayed overnight in Gloucester and were up early the next morning, very exciting! We met Jerry and he kindly transported the gear and ourselves deep into the Wye Valley. When we arrived at the site I could hear Hawfinches ticking away in the tops of the surrounding trees but couldn't actually see one. Hides erected, cameras ready so we hid ourselves away and waited. It wasn't long before the first bird turned up, sat in a yew tree dead opposite me, so being keen I snapped him. Not sure whether he liked our shiny new hides but he gave us the once over and flew off. It wasn't long before another bird arrived, this time directly on to the ground in front of us. Most of the photos will give the impression that the birds can consume vast amounts of black sunflower seed, and these birds seemed hungry. So began a seven hour stint in mixed weather conditions but boy was it entertaining.

During the session I did some counting and we had 20+ birds several times but the peak count was 31 +/- 1 bird. In fact there were so many birds in front of you it was difficult to decide which one to photograph. I worked out the that when the birds flew in, you had just a few seconds before they had a bill stuffed with sunflower husks, strategically placed branches and logs sort of worked but a majority of the photo opportunities came from birds on the ground. We also had a task to perform whilst enjoying ourselves immensely, to record as many ringed birds as we could.

Then all too quickly the day was over and on our journey back to the car park I realised just how privileged we were, not many birders get this close to such a stunning bird.


Not surprising that there was some aggressive behaviour given that there were so many birds in one area, not confined to males either, as females were willing to give the males a swift nip.

Two hours of constant rain didn't deter the birds, I think that is when we experienced the highest numbers.

Spoilt for choice!

Damp Hawfinch
A wet woodpecker

 The second day, at another venue, started off fairly well with 5 birds coming in not long after we had set up the gear. However, the forestry boys had decided that today was the day to bring in the heavy stump remover, a very noisy diesel powered monster. It seemed that the birds didn't care for it and relocated elsewhere.

No apologies for the amount of photographs - this sort of day doesn't happen that often.

And finally: The Cranes at Slimbridge had put on a performance for us on the way up, we arrived at the hide overlooking the fields where they normally reside and I scanned the horizon, nothing to be seen. It looked like a dip until we noticed three grey objects just thirty yards away from the hide. Two, who turned out to be Willow and Buttercup were getting down to bonding, going through the motions of nest building right in front of the hide.

They must find all that "bling" an encumbrance and it certainly mars the photographic look, but the shots when they were stood in the reeds made for better composition.



Not small birds!


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