Photo: Karl Price. Hawfinch: one of the scarcest and most elusive of our native finches

HAWFINCHES PUSHED INTO the UK in search of food last autumn could stay on here to nest, says the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO).

During October and early November 2017, figures spiked with hundreds of sightings recorded in Southeast England. Typically, these “irruptions” are due to a failing food supply in Europe, where crop failures in such countries as Romania and Germany push hawfinches into the UK for the winter.

Last autumn in the UK served up unprecedented numbers. And subsequent sightings during the winter at sites where hawfinches are not normally recorded, may suggest that hawfinches could be about to remain and colonise new areas.

Paul Stancliffe of the BTO said the nesting season for this species is usually between mid-April and mid-August. He added: “It is highly likely that some of the birds that arrived last autumn will stay here to breed in the UK, and we might see a boost in the breeding population.”

This has been noted in the past with other irruptive species such as crossbills and parrot crossbills.

Over in Essex, hawfinch sightings have been recorded in Hatfield Forest, Chalkney Woods and Braxted Park, with flocks of up to 30 spotted.

In November 2017, Lizzie Bruce, a warden at The Lodge RSPB reserve in Bedfordshire stated that more than 230 hawfinches were counted. She said: “That’s extraordinary, as in most years we are lucky to see one or two.”

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