Marbury Country Park - 9th December 2017

12 hardy birders gathered in the main car park at Marbury Country Park for the December trip. It was a rather cold 0C though with no wind. Initially it was bright sunshine but we got the full gamut of weather, snow, sleet, sun, and rain throughout the morning.

There had been regular sighting of Hawfinches at the Old Hall site so we were keeping our fingers crossed and meandered slowly across the snow covered grassy area and as instructed by Brian, checking all of the tops of the high trees for a lone bird. We had no luck initially but at least started our day list with Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Blackbird, and Long-tailed Tit. There were several Woodpigeons skulking in the trees with their feathers fluffed up as insulation against the cold.

We moved on to the hide to find that contrary to my expectations the vegetation had been cut down and the feeders fully stocked. The birds were taking full advantage of this and there was a constant stream of our feathered friends including Great Tits, Nuthatches, Coal Tits, and Blue Tits. We were also treated to other birds in that vicinity, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, and a flash of a Kingfisher. On the lake a Great Crested Grebe had caught a rather large fish but was having some trouble swallowing it as it was being harassed but a Black-headed Gull. There wasn't a large number of species on the lake, the only ducks from our viewpoint being Mallard and Tufted. There were about 35 Coot present.


A Robin showed us how to cope with this cold weather; fluff up your feathers as fat as they will go and wear an extra vest under them!!

We decided to give the Hawfinch another go, so back up to the park to stare at the tops of the trees. Suddenly there was an alarm by Alison and I saw a small bird with a short tail fly across and disappear behind a tall tree. An unsatisfactory sighting but enough for our day list. This sighting was definitely in the category of ‘Q: How do you know that it was a Hawfinch? A: Because Brian said it was’!
Other Members of The Birdwatching Group turned up at intervals until we numbered 17.
We then walked along the lake until we could have a good view across the water to the grassed area and added Wigeon to our duck list. There were also some large flocks, or whatever that collective noun is, of Curlew (about 60) and Canada Geese (about 200) and a flotilla of Cormorant cruised across the lake demonstrating synchronized diving. We also added Great Black-backed Gull, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Lapwing, Common Gull, and Grey Heron.

We had quite a good day with a list of 37 species.

As we wandered back to the cars we tried for a better view of the Hawfinch without luck and then for the primary purpose (for most of us) of the day, the short drive to The Spinner and Bergamot for an excellent Christmas lunch!


Footnote: there were 5 Hawfinches reported present at Marbury on Sunday 10th December, the day after the Group’s visit. So on the Monday a friend and I decided to return to try again. It was still freezing cold with snow on the ground, but at least the sun was shining. We headed straight to the Old Hall site and settled down for a long wait.

After about 30 minutes we had our first sighting. I saw a small bird fly into the top of a tree and quickly managed to get the scope on it. We both had a nice view of a Hawfinch. I was just raising the camera in its direction to try for a photo when it flew off. We waited for a bit longer but with no more success so we decided to go for a walk elsewhere to return some circulation to our frozen feet.


We returned to the site in early afternoon. After a short wait we had another sighting. This time I dispensed with the scope and got straight on it with the camera and managed to get 1 photo before it flew off. It’s not the best photo I have taken, rather spoiled by the branch partly covering its face, but still recognisably a Hawfinch.


During our walkabout my friend pointed out a large holly bush covered with red berries behind the ranger station, and also covered with a large flock of Redwings feasting avidly on said berries. The bush was wonderfully illuminated by the midday sun and presented a wonderful photo opportunity.


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