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Hawfinch fieldwork through the week

Marcus writes:

Unfortunately work, and in particular the impact of coronavirus, has dominated my working week, but it hasn’t all been lost time! I have managed to get out each morning this week to cover a Hawfinch roost, and thankfully am now at the tail end of my annual check of all 40 known roosts.

There are two main types of Hawfinch roost: 1) busy, year-round roosts that are important communal gathering sites, and 2) those that are used through spring and summer and are close to breeding sites, in areas infrequently used by Hawfinch in the winter months. I tend to save counting the latter for mid-March when numbers are building - these 'seasonal' roosts are normally active from late February through to September, and have a very different feel to the larger year-round roosts. Most are in ivy in mature deciduous woodland, which can make accurate counting tricky.

Typical seasonal Hawfinch roost site, here in Ivy on Oak

Overall, Hawfinch numbers in the roosts are comparable to previous years with a healthy total of 584 counted from 37 roosts (average of 15.8 Hawfinch per roost). I have a further three roosts to count, which should see us comfortably exceed the 600 mark.

I have also been spending a fair bit of time in my main study area in the New Forest - trail cameras at bait stations are each generating around 1500 images per day. I was delighted to see some old friends back on the camera, including the first Hawfinch that we colour-ringed in the New Forest. Adult male AN, first ringed on 25th June 2015 as an adult, has been a regular visitor ever since, and this week he has been in company of adult female AF, first ringed in May 2016.

Adult male Hawfinch 'AN' at bait station on 9th March

This morning we set up our Hawfinch catching area and spent four hours in the hide, however mice scuppered our plans somewhat, the hide has been stored in our garden shed over the winter and our resident mice have made a meal of it – it now resembles a slice of Swiss cheese!

By way of a change, a couple of visits to Normandy Marsh this week, including the monthly WeBS count this afternoon, produced a nice mix of species, although the only evidence of migration was a handful of singing Chiffchaffs and a trickle of northward-bound Meadow Pipits.

Slavonian Grebe off of Normandy Marsh mid-week

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