Over the County line

I had seen reports of Hawfinch sightings in Combe Wood Berkshire and a quick check of the map showed that it was literally just over the border from Wiltshire. Now Hawfinch is just about top of my Wilts Wishlist so a trip was planned. Pete and I headed off at just before eight on a gloomy morning and as we passed Marlborough it was getting quite misty. By the time we crossed the canal at Great Bedwyn it was foggy, not what we wanted. On the way we had seen a Muntjac in Savernake and many corvids and Pheasants. Also a small covey of Red-legged Partridges and a Sparrowhawk which was sat on a roadside fencepost. Arriving at the chosen start point at Buttermere we started off. Four Red Kites were seen along with a few small birds. After a couple of hundred yards we were struggling through deep mud and with very little idea of where we headed due to the fog we decided to head back to the car and start our walk from the Berkshire side of the wood. So a while later we were heading up a steep muddy track wondering if we had made the right choice of location. A Song Thrush was calling and a Raven was also heard. Then the calls of Marsh and Willow Tit were heard and a couple of birds seen. There was a lot of small bird noise around and I saw a large bird fly from the trees ahead. Initially I thought Buzzard but then saw the rounded wings and realised that it was a Tawny Owl. Luckily it didn’t fly far and we both had good views. An excellent sighting. We reached Combe Wood and not really knowing were to go just picked a route at random. Nuthatch was heard and seen as were a couple more Willow Tits. We were watching a Goldcrest flitting around when I saw a bird fly into a nearby tree. A quick look confirmed it as a Hawfinch but before Pete could get a look it flew and wasn’t seen again. Doubly frustrating as it was also just a few yards away from the Wiltshire boundary. After a coffee stop here we moved on seeing more of Willow Tits including one ringed bird. Treecreeper and Stock Dove were also seen and Jays heard. On the way back down to the car a couple more Ravens were calling but again not seen in the murk. Within about five minutes driving we emerged from the fog into sunshine and looking back could see the whole escarpment shrouded in fog, most annoying. Kestrel, Jay and another Red Kite were seen on the drive home. Another good morning out in an interesting new area. Certainly to be visited again but maybe on a cleared day. Checking the WOS website this evening I noted that two Hawfinches were seen in Savernake today.


11 responses to “Over the County line

  1. Jenny, Barry Elvin

    What a good morning despite the fog! sounds like a good plaace to try.

    • I shall certainly be going back. It was a bit of a contrast to the wide open space of Imber on Saturday afternoon.

  2. Just found your diary, good stuff. I saw the two Hawfinches in Savernake on Sunday, they were over in the Eastern side of the forest near Savernake Lodge. Had a good day there for my first visit.

    • Hi Rich,
      I saw your report on the WOS sightings page and wondered which area you saw them in. I haven’t been to that part of Savernake myself, I tend to stay to the west of the Grand Avenue. Guess I have some more exploring to do. What time of day were you out?

      • I was there from 11-3ish. Got slightly lost as it was my first visit, resulting in me walking past Savernake Lodge (no public access!) but fortuitously finding the 2 Hawfinches in the forest just N of there. They hung around for me to view, instead of immediately flying off like most of the other Hawfinches I’ve seen in the past.

      • wiltsbirder

        It is quite easy to mislay yourself in Savernake. The only other Hawfinch I have seen were going to roost in the New Forest and the one on Sunday only stayed for 30 seconds or so.

      • Hi Rich,
        I think I might have to start following you around when you go birding!

      • Hi, I was surprised to see Hawfinch so soon again and in a different location- wait years for one in Wiltshire and they pop up in 2 localities! First I’ve seen in Great Ridge after quite a few visits in last couple years. Was a very murky day on 10th, hadn’t seen much apart from usual woodland birds and putting up a woodcock whilst tramping thru the undergrowth. On my way back to the car down a wooded corridor that drops from the eastern end of the wood spotted the Hawfinch in a mixed flock of bullfinches & chaffinches. I think there were probably more than one Hawfinch but I just kept focussed on one individual due to the mist and their constant movement, enabling a good view of it perched and flying.

      • It’s strange how it goes sometimes.Great Ridge is well out of my area. Hardly ever get down that way. Funnily enough we are going to Gillingham tomorrow but there won’t be much time for birds. Maybe a quick stop at Heavens Gate or Shearwater on the way.

  3. I found one of these stonking finches up at Combe Wood on a very wet New Year’s Eve; I think that there had been less disturbance because of the torrential rain, so the bird was in the publicly accessible part of the wood. This has led to a string of sightings of up to three, mostly on the approach to the wood, but in general, I think that any of the small woods up there on the Berks/Hants/Wilts borders can hold Hawfinch in the winter.

    And thanks for linking to Birding Over My Head, Paul.

    • You have certainly had a few people following in your footsteps since it was reported. We saw three others when we were there.

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