A few people have said lately that I must be mad, getting up each day before 0500 so I can count a Hawfinch roost on my way to work! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I also think I’m mad, but let me share my experience this morning.
I’m up at 0450 to get ready for work and arrive on site at a Hawfinch roost at 0550, just 10 minutes walk from a lay-by. I’m delighted to be circled twice in the near darkness by a roding Woodcock, my first roding bird of the year.
I’m stood in position at the roost, leaning against a mature Oak, when I hear an animal shuffling through the undergrowth - normally this would turn out to be a Muntjac, but to my delight it's a Badger that can sense but not see me as I stand stock-still against the Oak. We have a stand-off for what seems like an age, but is probably less than a minute, before it moves on past me within a couple of meters. I turn my head to watch as it passes - it senses the movement and bolts in a flurry of leaf litter.
By now Hawfinch are coming out of the roost, and over the next 30 minutes I watch 32 Hawfinch emerge, gather in a Larch, and bicker with each other before moving off west in three groups. While watching the Hawfinch, I’m serenaded by a singing Firecrest, enjoy a 10-minute burst of drumming from a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and listen to Goshawks noisily copulating nearby. I also keep tabs on other species emerging from the roost - mainly Crossbill, Chaffinch and Siskin today. After the last Hawfinch group heads off, I give it another 15 minutes in case there are any stragglers - just one late rising Hawfinch today that is especially vocal.
Now, sadly, I have to drag myself away to get back to the car, get changed in the cold into a suit, and drive up the M3 and A34 to a meeting in the Midlands - fingers crossed the traffic is good this morning!
I had a slightly more relaxed start than Marcus(!), but managed to cover over 50 km on the gravel bike this morning, scouting out routes between Burley and Bolderwood. I heard more than I saw, including calling Goshawk, Crossbill and Dartford Warbler, singing Firecrest and Stonechat, and drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. An overflying Raven was also seen.
The heavy rain in the last 48 hours has brought the rivers and streams back up, and a few new trees down. The image above shows floodwater at Dames Slough Inclosure, and below are a couple of Oaks that have very recently come down in the inclosures.