Saturday, January 08, 2005

Mandarin and Hawfinch

Today I did a spot of digiscoping despite the ridiculously high winds. I popped down to Woodwalton Fen and saw not much, but as I was leaving I refound the drake Mandarin that has been hanging about the last few days. As I didn't see one locally last year, this was a good year tick and a chance for a bit of digisnapping.

Drake Mandarin with Mallard, Rothschild's Mere, Woodwalton Fen NNR, 8.1.05.
Drake Mandarin with Mallards, Rothschild's Mere, Woodwalton Fen NNR, Cambs, 8.1.05.
Nikon Coolpix 880 + Kowa TSN-821 + 32xW LER

Kevin DuRose later told me he had refound the Hawfinch at Ferry Meadows, so I popped down there and with Katie Bog and KDR we located it for less than five minutes before it melted back into its leafy alternative state and disappeared... Still I managed a couple of half-decent snaps.

Hawfinch, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough, 8.1.05
Nikon Coolpix 880 + Kowa TSN-821 + 32xW LER

Hawfinch is one of those birds that everyone wants to see, with a reputation for shyness and being ultra-elusive. This one (above) is pretty bold, but uses its brilliant camouflage to stay still and blend and shape-shift when it feels like it.
It is also one of those species that I consider as a classic Weedon's World of Nature bird of the old school (from back in the day, no less). When my brothers and I went out to the local 'downs' (or fields and woods on the hilly chalk of the Surrey North Downs) as boys, we had two main birdwatching aims: to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and to see Hawfinch, both of them scarce as hen's teeth for most of our youth.
One of my brothers saw Hawfinch years before me, and when I finally had one flying by me (when out on my own one day) no-one believed me... However, when we later found a Hawfinch (or was it two?) repeatedly returning to the same blob of mistletoe in the middle of Devil's Den Woods (great name, eh?), we had a chance to hang about day after day, watching it come and go and getting our fill (at quite a tender age) of this magnificent finch.
Then again, I remember as a student in Bristol, ambling to the uni one day and glancing to my right, I saw a Hawfinch at eye-level in a tree, not eight feet away, just say there looking at me while I looked at 'e.
Oh Lordy, I've started now... In 1996-97 I was living in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan and one or two of the parks there were great for Hawfinch (yes the same species, though the additional presence of Japanese Grosbeak in the local avifauna was not unwelcome...). Hawfinches were regular visitors to bird-tables in Maruyama Park, as I recall. In fact, now I'm rambling, I remember one day watching them for a while and a Japanese guy noticed I was into the birds, so whipped out the paperback birds of Japan (split into water and land birds and in Japanese), opened it on the finch page, and after a brief conversation (broken Japanese and English), he insisted on giving me the book.
Ah, fond memories – but wherever you go, the Hawfinch is always a fantastic bird.

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