May 30th- hawfinch and swift diary

I am currently waking very early to look at the moth trap. Our tree sparrows are very partial to moths and this means I need to protect them at first light. Being up at 4am is wonderful. There is so much light, the air is fresh and cold and birds are singing full throttle. Although it must be said, the dawn chorus is reducing markedly now as birds tend to their young.

Our third swift really started to make an impact this morning, passing the colony at high speed often with a potential mate in tow. I was watching them, when I heard a call that was familiar but not instantly recognisable. It was high pitched, loud “zip” sound, first making me think spotted flycatcher, then perhaps a fledgling call that I didn’t recognise. But I knew it was different and walked to the back garden where the call was located to a cotoneaster tree. A bulky shape in the weeping branches and all became clear- hawfinch, a superb male.

I have seen more than my fair share of these incredible finches at Castle Howard Arboretum and in Gilling woods, but this was in May. All my hawfinch sightings have been in winter until now.  A late spring hawfinch adds weight to the thought that a small population breeds in this area. Historically hawfinches have been found in Gilling woods, Duncombe Park and a few other local woods but they are notoriously elusive in the summer months.

My views were brief but they remain etched on my mind. I didn’t have a sketchbook or camera at the time so quickly made sketches and referred to some old sketches of the species to paint a watercolour of my sighting. Hawfinches are great fun to draw;  with bulky features and a beady eye drawing a hawfinch feels almost like drawing a cartoon bird! It had rudely interrupted my swift watching, there was a prospecting bird at the time, but what an interuption! It flew off quickly giving beautiful views of its bounding flight against fresh green trees.

Swift Diary

Our swift pair has started a full incubation routine now with efficient change overs which leaves maximum time for feeding. A third bird prospected at dusk yesterday evening, perching on at least two nest boxes but ending up in a loft ventilation slot. It was very dim at this time, almost beyond twilight and I wondred whether it might roost. But at 10.03pm it fluttered out of the gap and sped off into a rosy sky. This could well be our next breeding swift…


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