How I got close up shots of a rare flock of hawfinches

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How I got close up shots of a rare flock of hawfinches

Postby Robert Fuller » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:49 am

Whilst I was busy painting for my Christmas exhibition last October, I began to hear news of huge flocks of hawfinches arriving in the UK. As more and more sightings were recorded across the country, it became clear that we were experiencing the largest invasion of these rare finches ever recorded. Hawfinches enjoy a near-mythical status among birdwatchers, since they are among the hardest of all British birds to spot. The UK resident population is estimated to be as low as 1,500 and the bird is registered as endangered on the RSPB red list. This winter’s influx of birds turned out to be migrants from Europe’s Eastern Bloc, where there had been a severe harvest failure.
My interest piqued when the invasion hit Yorkshire. Hawfinches like to feed on the seeds of hornbeam trees which grow mainly in the south of the country. But there are hornbeams growing at The Yorkshire Arboretum, a botanical tree garden affiliated with Kew Gardens and part of the Castle Howard Estate. I couldn’t resist taking time away from my easel for a closer look. When I arrived at the arboretum, the place was already bustling with bird watchers keen to get a close look at this rare and impressive finch. There were hawfinches everywhere. You could see them flying high overhead and feeding in the stands of hornbeam, which were laden with seed.Image
I held up a telescope to examine a male as it perched on a branch of a hornbeam and was taken aback by how beautiful hawfinches are. Their plumage is a warm autumnal colour set off by an iridescent ‘sail’ along their secondary wing feathers. I decided I need to get closer. Much closer. But given that it was already very difficult to get a good photograph even when there were so many birds about, I realised that getting up close was going to take a lot of planning.My first step was to approach the arboretum to see if I could put up a hide whilst they were closed to the public for the winter.
Read my blog post to find out how I went on to watch up to 100 hawfinches feeding outside my hide and what I learned about these giant finches.
Robert Fuller
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Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:03 pm

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