Naturalists are urging people to get outside this weekend for a great chance to glimpse the elusive hawfinch, after record numbers have appeared in the UK this autumn. The National Trust has reported there are still hawfinches at many of its places, as they make the most of the autumn fruits and the clear weather over the next few days.
Nature specialist Matthew Oates, says, “There has been an unprecedented influx of these shy and secretive birds to our shores. The keenest of birders may only spot a handful of hawfinches during years of birdwatching but right now, everyone has a chance.
“The best places to look are around hornbeam trees and yew groves that still bear their autumn fruit. If you’re at a loose end what to do this weekend, get outside to try and catch a sight of these enigmatic characters – it may be quite a while until such an opportunity comes round again.”
Trust rangers at Fyne Court, Somerset, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, and the Slindon Estate in West Sussex have recorded recent sightings of the birds.
Hawfinches have also been seen lately at Sissinghurst in Kent, Sizergh, in Cumbria, Felbrigg in Norfolk, Hatfield Forest in Essex, Basildon Park in Berks, Steps Hill at Ashridge in Bucks and Wimpole in Cambs.
The remarkable invasion of the bird – the UK’s largest, rarest and most elusive finch – has been attributed to poor seed crop yields in other parts of Europe, notably in the bird’s strongholds of Germany and Romania.
In the UK, there has been an explosion of berries, nuts and seeds, after fine spring weather earlier in the year.
It is thought there are fewer than 1000 pairs of hawfinch native to the UK after dramatic declines in recent years, though the resident population is augmented by winter migrants from the continent. Renowned for their parrot like bills, which are able to crack the hardest of shells, they are sometimes referred to as the nutcrackers of the bird world.
Anyone who spots one of the timid birds is encouraged to share their sighting online using @HawfinchesUK.