My winter has been dominated by Hawfinches. The opportunity to know a single species can be so rewarding and I would not swap this winter for one with a stream of rarities. For as long as I can remember Hawfinches have fascinated me, they are right up there with Swift amongst my favourite species. They have a brutish beauty which is a delight to tackle with pencil or brush, subtle colours boldly arranged and a character which is cartoon like with beady eye and massive beak. The strength of that beak is mythical in birding circles; don’t try cracking a cherry or sloe stone with your teeth, easy work for a Hawfinch whose bulky head is full of muscles to operate its stone crusher. When I lived in Wiltshire I watched a pair through a winter and they were elusive and very frustrating at times; hours of observation for a quick glimpse. But this winter has been different. I have been watching flocks of Hawfinches from the Continent. In flocks Hawfinches are more confident, with more watchmen they feel safety in numbers. I have had some spectacular views, several this morning even and I look forward to studying them in the coming months with the hope that some might colonise and breed.