Saturday, 10 November 2012

Compton Verney

Today I found myself being "encouraged" to attend a textile fair with Lyn and her friend Pam. The sweetener was the venue, the splendid Compton Verney, near Wellesbourne, with its equally splendid arboretum and lake. Lyn doesn't really do early, so we arrived at about 11am and having got the girls into the building I made a beeline for the grounds.

I had decided to spend my time trying to improve my field sketching, and so began with the two Great Crested Grebes on the lake, spent a while trying to capture hyper-active Goldcrests, and then some time strolling around the arboretum putting my currently dodgey neck through its paces by scanning the treetops for birds. The trees there are seriously high, a mixture of massive redwood type conifers and a variety of stately deciduous. There were many Redwings in there, but they were incredibly flighty. I ended up sitting on a bench near the ice house and started to sketch a Redwing which was sitting in a slightly less tall Sweet Chestnut. A number of Greenfinches joined it, and then a Chaffinch. I looked up to find that the Redwing had gone, drat. But there, a few feet to the the right of where it had been, sat a HAWFINCH. Gosh.


I stared at it for about 10 seconds trying to memorise what I could, then I looked at my sketch book to start an outline, looked back. It had gone. I didn't see it fly and I didn't hear it call. Just a pure fluke. Hawfinches have been recorded here before, although I have never been lucky. There was one in February 2009, and a few earlier records scattered through recent decades. Breeding probably occured in Wellesbourne Woods in 1995, so it is possible that these records are wanderers from a tiny local population rather than being continental immigrants.

It was time to head to the restaurant for lunch. When I re-emerged after a frankly excellent meal, the sun was low in the sky and time was at a premium. I could find no sign of the Hawfinch, or indeed any finches other than a fly-over Redpoll. About 30 Tufted Ducks flew around at dusk, and I noticed that about a dozen Pied Wagtails were pitching into the narrow fringe of reeds at the pool's edge to roost. Finally, about 60 Redwings headed away on their way to their communal roost somewhere.

Not bad for my non-birding day.

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