A still & sunny morning was forecast for Saturday (25/11) morning and so I was keen to get out first thing to my local patch of Bucknell Wood. I've had some very decent luck with Hawfinches locally in the last few weeks and I was really hoping to get one on my Bucknell patch list too, knowing full well, this winter was THE chance to get them here.
As predicted, it was a stunner of a morning and It was pleasing to find no other cars in the car park. I had the place to myself...spot on!
Walking down one of the main, central tracks through the centre of the wood, I heard that distinctive sharp, snappy call that I had become so familiar with during the last few weeks...Hawfinch, boom!! It flew over the track and then away from me, before luckily circling back round and going right over my head calling loudly throughout. What a treat!
On a bit of a high, I continued on with a big old circuit of the wood, however there were unfortunately no more Hawfinch sightings. I did though enjoy a few other nice bits & bobs, including a couple of vocal flyover Brambling, 4 Lesser Redpoll (including a bird with a metal ring - too far away to read), a flyover Cormorant, several vocal Raven & Siskins.
Sunday (26/11) was again lovely and bright, however there was a bit more of a breeze, with a right old chilly edge to it! I decided to try out the fields between Brackley & Croughton in the vein hope of finding a Hen Harrier, a real Northants bogey bird of mine! This area has real potential for finding winter raptors with large open fields and a nice mix of rough areas, hedges and woodland, as well as several high points to scan the area. Barely 5 minutes from home, I took the road to Hinton-in-the-Hedges off the A422, on the western edge of Brackley. This road climbs right up to a significant high point in the landscape and is a good vantage point to scan for birds. Driving along here, the small-ish silhouette of a bird sat in a roadside sapling loomed into view. It was about Jackdaw size, but it just didn't look right. As I slowly crawled towards it, the bird dropped down into the adjacent field, revealing a flash of blue, pointed wings...a male Merlin!! I tried my best to creep out of the car and to the boot to get my camera and bins but unfortunately the bird flushed. I quickly got to the bins and watched it cruise down to a distant fence. Here it sat for a good 10-15 minutes allowing good if distant scope views (horrific phone-scoped photo below at x60!). Bumping into a Merlin anywhere is special but this really was an unexpected treat. A serious local mega!
Later on, a quick look at Thenford Church again proved fruitful with a couple of relatively brief flight views of a female/1st-winter Hawfinch, loosely associating with a group of Redwings.
I finished my day over at Boddington Reservoir for the gull roost. It was a very decent roost with excellent numbers of larger gulls. I managed to pick out at least 5-6 adult/4th winter Yellow-Legged Gulls, as well as a possible adult Caspian Gull at last knockings, in the near darkness.