My Hawfinch Winter

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. In recent weeks I have been fortunate to have both a male and a female Hawfinch visit our bird table in Gilling East, North Yorkshire allowing me extremely close views from my studio! Here is a small selection of watercolour studies made this winter. I will be showing more as part of an exhibition at Yorkshire Arboretum in May 2018.


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