There’s been an influx of Hawfinches into the UK this autumn and winter. After checking the Devon Birds website I’ve been out to Haldon Forest in South Devon searching for them. I chat to a nice couple parked illegally, searching for them in vain with binoculars trained to the tops of Hornbeam trees. “We’ve been here for hours and no sign,” he says. “They should be just over there,” he says, pointing, and then they drive off, disappointed. I see their brake lights glow as they turn the corner and a flock of 11 Hawfinches fly over and settle in the trees. They are just where his finger was pointing. I manage to get a handful of in-focus, but distant, shots from the bottom of the trees.
A week later I’m in Italy and sitting in a tiny wooden shed, too small to even park a bicycle in, with two XL Italian men in camouflage. “Whatever gives you your kicks”, I hear you say.
“Frosone”, one of them says. It’s Italian for Hawfinch:
What a spectacular bird:
Their entire face is a beak:
Their scientific name is Coccothraustes coccothraustes.
I think I might have been spotted: