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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 09:00   #76
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In the 'NN' book 'Finches' Ian Newton comments that they return daily to the same place if food holds out and late in the winter they return to woodland to eat buds of oak and other trees and the terminal shoots of yew.
Interesting, thanks. Pretty much reflects my observations.
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 14:55   #77
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When we first had hawfinches visiting our feeding station I thought I'd give them a treat and saved the stones from some cherries, after drying them for a couple of weeks I put them out next to the sunflower seeds and they were totally ignored! It's been suggested to me that they may prefer last year's crop - but I haven't tried storing them over winter yet. I do wonder if toxins would be as potent in older seeds?

I'ts curious that they have the reputation of fussy eaters - is this because they don't visit bird feeders? Here they never feed from the hanging feeders unless they have a tray under them catching the bits (they perch on the tray) - they much prefer the big table or the ground.

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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 16:28   #78
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Mistle Thrushes eat the non-toxic red aril (cone scale, to be precise); they swallow the toxic seed whole and pass it out in the droppings undamaged, with the toxins not released.
Great Tits are very keen on eating Yew seeds, hammering them open like a Nuthatch. I hear them doing this quite a lot.
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 18:39   #79
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When we first had hawfinches visiting our feeding station I thought I'd give them a treat and saved the stones from some cherries, after drying them for a couple of weeks I put them out next to the sunflower seeds and they were totally ignored! It's been suggested to me that they may prefer last year's crop - but I haven't tried storing them over winter yet. I do wonder if toxins would be as potent in older seeds?
Because sunflower seeds are easier to eat, would be my guess - less energy needed to crack them, toxin-free kernels, and oil-rich too. Once you've got them used to coming, try a day when they only have cherry stones as an option, and see what happens then.

I'd be very doubtful they'd prefer older stale seeds to fresh ones. Maybe they were already too old? They mainly go for cherry seeds in summer, when the new crop is ripe (cherry growers don't like them, because they'll rip up the fruit to take the stones still on the tree).
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 19:28   #80
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Many of the seeds that Hawfinches regularly take e.g. Yew, Mistletoe, Laburnum and a myriad of other seeded fruit species are given as poisonous, and as such are given a wide berth by humans. However the occurence of any real ill effects are often occasional, and only in extreme cases are there any serious side effects. That said...when I first moved into my present abode (34years ago) I had the good fortune one early July morning, to observe a movement in my Hawthorn hedge. After much waiting, I eventually noticed a single eye staring at me from within the hedge, rest of the bird was totally concealed, eventually the accompanying bill morphed into view...A Hawfinch I exclaimed berries exuding over the rim of the lower mandible, along the entire length (to the point of the bill being partly open, as it was crammed with berries). I stared in almost disbelief and wonder, subsequent reference has stated that Hawthorn seeds contain cyanide (as do apple seeds), thus the toxicity level in the brown seeds of the former (even just a few) would be extremely high. Therefore I would assume that a bird that can exert c175 lbs per sq.inch+pressure to split an olive stone, would also have evolved an efficient digestive system that would enable it to cope with quantative cyanide poisoning?

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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 20:19   #81
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The toxicity of cyanide containing seeds is not as high for birds as it is for mammals.
Cedar Waxwings have been reported to be tolerant of high levels of amygdalin (this is the cyanide-containing compound in seeds of e.g. cherries and hawthorn: https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/f...0749-p0758.pdf.

This is probably true for other seed eating (and dispersing!) birds as well. This would make sense, because it would not be helpful for a plant to kill the animals helping them getting dispersed! (as I noted in proposition 11 accompanying my doctorate thesis back in 2001, haha).
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 20:29   #82
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I'll try putting out some whole cherries to see what they make of them. Could be an expensive experiment as typically numbers peak in January/February when cherries (if they're available at all) are imported.

They're mysterious creatures, they are seemingly content to feast through the Winter and Spring on sunflower seeds and have nested for the last few years when the consumption really picks up pace, then they bring the young to the table for a few days and suddenly vanish till the Autumn.

Maybe the young have to feed on toxic seeds elsewhere to develop immunity? It's always seemed strange that they don't just stay here all year round as there's always sunflower seeds available.

The three Limousin breeding bird atlases going back to the 80s show similar distribution but with roughly double the records between the last two. This is in marked contrast to Goldfinch for example which fell by nearly 50% over the same period. The two winter surveys show similar distribution too.

The tree diversity here is pretty low - no field maples or yew, lots of conifer plantations and the rest is mostly oak and sweet chestnut woodland. I only found out this summer - when the mayor had an exhibition of historical photos - that it was nearly all pasture land right up till WW2. Surprisingly though hawfinch (whilst not abundant) is a fairly common bird.
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Old Saturday 4th November 2017, 18:23   #83
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Don't know if anyone can help on this anyway here goes....having had confirmed sightings of Hawfinch on 30th and 31st Oct (Mon/Tues)..seven and eight respectively for those dates (a couple of pairs and the rest singles), nothing on the Wednesday, but with a question mark for Thursday. Perhaps I should point out, that I'm quite familiar with the species particularly so as a ''flyover''. However I've never witnessed them en-masse, so to speak, I had a circa two second (bad view) of perhaps 25-30 silhouetted birds going North, just below tree level (forest edge). They looked bigger...rather than smaller, with an obvious finch bounce and a rhythmic, measured wing beat. I can be emphatic regarding the flight movement as they were continually fore-shortening en-route, until they disappeared behind the trees. Although I had eliminated all other contenders, such was the ''size'' of the group and the (brevity of the bad views) that I refrained from putting it out. My question regards the flight action of the species when in a flock on migration, would appreciate anyone with experience of ''the said'' to comment?

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Old Saturday 4th November 2017, 22:10   #84
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With the Hawfinch increase I also noticed a big increase in Repolls and to a lesser extend Siskins and looking at the BTO seems to back this up so wondering is this likely to be for the same reason as the Hawfinch
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Old Sunday 5th November 2017, 09:44   #85
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With the Hawfinch increase I also noticed a big increase in Repolls and to a lesser extend Siskins and looking at the BTO seems to back this up so wondering is this likely to be for the same reason as the Hawfinch
Don't know regarding the main thrust of your question other than, I've experienced early October arrivals at my niger feeding station for Siskin and later in the month arrival for Redpoll. Had my first returning Siskins on Friday (just two birds), and as of yet no Redpolls!
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 13:35   #86
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I checked local (southeast Northumbs) tree seed crops today; on a scale 0-10 where 0=zero crop and 10=bumper crop:
Ash 0
Beech 2
Hornbeam 4
Lime 3
Maple 5
Yew 6

So not good amounts of seed, but enough to feed some Hawfinches for at least the first part of the winter. Yet still none around here yet.
I was reminded of your earlier post when watching a hawfinch scoffing hornbeam seeds near Morpeth at the weekend, from a tree which appeared to have a bumper crop. Not a very abundant tree in the NE though, typically mostly planted in estates?
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 15:15   #87
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I once considered an informal experiment to identify Hornbeam, and therefore good Hawfinch habitat, using Google Maps Satellite view in the New Forest and surrounding woodland. The Hornbeam tree I looked at did stand out on the satellite views, being a paler green than other trees in the area(?). However, once realising that Hawfinches are encountered quite frequently in the local area I kind of lost interest. I'd be even less inclined to look into it after this years influx! but it might be food for thought.
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 16:32   #88
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I was reminded of your earlier post when watching a hawfinch scoffing hornbeam seeds near Morpeth at the weekend, from a tree which appeared to have a bumper crop. Not a very abundant tree in the NE though, typically mostly planted in estates?
Yep, not native up here, planted mainly in parks and larger gardens. Saw the Morpeth trees y'day (with 3 Hawfinches in attendance), and yes, they do have a good crop on, better than other Hornbeams I've seen locally, I'd rate about 8 on my informal scale a few posts up.

But worth adding they're not spending all their time in the Hornbeams by any means (I had to wait half an hour for them to show up, and others have had to wait several hours), they're clearly also going elsewhere to find other tree seeds (lots of Beech nearby, plus quite a few other odds'n'ends).
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 16:47   #89
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Caught up with one (poss 2) locally this afternoon in my regular patch at Burbage Common. An area of former farmland next to the common was purchased some 30-odd years ago by the council and in one small field an arboretum was planted-up with, amongst other species, several Hornbeams which I've had my eye on since they became mature enough to produce seeds! Only a few of the trees have seed this year but there are Maples, etc., to keep them here for a few days at least...
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Old Monday 13th November 2017, 10:05   #90
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Here in Sussex we are getting some good flocks of settled birds and since in my experience and talking to other birders this is the most unprecedented and sudden invasion not just of Hawfinches but any irruptive bird in my lifetime, it's been interesting to note some factors.
Firstly interesting to speculate on how these birds have arrived. There have been relatively small numbers of birds recorded flying 'in off' at coastal sites compared to inland, I know one day about 40 over Hunstanton but comparitively few at Portland and Spurn. At the same time 30 - 40 birds were being reported through sites in Surrey - i.e Capel for a period of a couple of weeks at the same time. These birds now seem to have filtered down along an area roughly at the same latitude stretching from The New Forest through Hampshire and then all along the Low Weald across Sussex (North of Chichester in the West to North of Battle in the East) max flocks in Sussex have included 46 North ofChichester (a regular haunt), 56 near Arundel, 21 near Lewes and 150! near Battle yet there have been hardly any reported at coastal sites - 3 at Seaford Head and 2 at Dunge - forgive me if these numbers are a bit off. This latitude does correspond with a thin strip of Ancient Woodland - containing Hornbeam but on a map it's really interesting to see how concentrated it is.
Also from firsthand observation and speaking to local birders and residents it has been a very poor year for Hornbeam seed in the county, over the weekend I walked through whole plantations of Hornbeam yet only a few trees are seeding, in contrast apparently it has been an absolutely record year for Acorns - so the seed collapse has only been for some species of tree. It's just been great seeing Hawfinches inhabiting suitable areas and there is a hope that many will stay to breed.
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Old Tuesday 14th November 2017, 18:19   #91
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Thought that this might be of general interest regarding Hawfinch, and perceptions at the time, taken from the LNHS Birds of the London Area since 1900 (published by Collins in 1957).

''The great attraction of Epping Forest to the hawfinch is it's profusion of hornbeams. At times in the early months of the year the flocks under the hornbeams feeding on the seeds may run into hundreds, and this flocking has been noticed elsewhere in the area. Indeed one observer has been misled into supposing that these flocks, attracted to one spot by an abundance of food, are composed of migratory birds. There is, however, no evidence of anything but local movements among hawfinches anywhere in the British Isles''.

Footnote from the same publication: Howard Bentham recorded a flock of 260 at an unknown location in Surrey, just outside the 20-mile (LNHS) radius, in March, 1919.

The greatest number that I've ever encountered on my patch (the above) in 50 years, is circa half a dozen, and that was 45 years ago! Am looking forward to the coming Winter.

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Old Wednesday 15th November 2017, 16:30   #92
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All the Hawfinches I have heard in Britain this autumn have been giving what I call the 'visp'-type call and which isn't described in the Collins Bird Guide. Good recording here:

http://www.xeno-canto.org/390062

The call is quite loud and is given by perched and flying birds. A good way to locate birds perched in leaf covered canopy.
One picked up flying over at work today at about 9:30 thanks to the posting of this link, not a call I was familiar with before at all.
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 06:32   #93
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Here in Sussex we are getting some good flocks of settled birds and since in my experience and talking to other birders this is the most unprecedented and sudden invasion not just of Hawfinches but any irruptive bird in my lifetime, it's been interesting to note some factors.

Firstly interesting to speculate on how these birds have arrived. There have been relatively small numbers of birds recorded flying 'in off' at coastal sites compared to inland
Hawfinch is usually considered a diurnal migrant but on Twitter #nocmig there have been several (up to some hundered per night) recordings of nocturnal flight calls reported. So maybe that's how lots of them arrive?
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 09:11   #94
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Hawfinch is usually considered a diurnal migrant but on Twitter #nocmig there have been several (up to some hundered per night) recordings of nocturnal flight calls reported. So maybe that's how lots of them arrive?
Mmmm....Interesting! I wonder if nocturnal migration is greater than diurnal?
Not something that I've considered before, I wonder....would the former have any advantage over the latter i.e. less risk of predator attack for example?

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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 13:04   #95
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Mmmm....Interesting! I wonder if nocturnal migration is greater than diurnal?
Not something that I've considered before, I wonder....would the former have any advantage over the latter i.e. less risk of predator attack for example?

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Is this a general question or only concerning Hawfinches? In general there are much more nocturnal migrants than diurnal. If one takes for example passerines most species migrate mainly at night, only few strictly diurnal and some can do both, like Brambling, Tree Pipit or Yellow Wagtail and obviously Hawfinch. I was surprised by reading that! Much has been speculated about the advantage of nocturnal migration stating reasons like predator avoidance, navigating by stars, minimising problem of overheating, calmer wheather circumstances...
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 13:21   #96
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I'd think most birds can do both, and have to in some circumstances, like crossing larger seas, where they have to spend >24 hours flying non-stop.
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 15:02   #97
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I'd think most birds can do both, and have to in some circumstances, like crossing larger seas, where they have to spend >24 hours flying non-stop.
Yes, you are absolutely right! However, barrier crossing is a special situation. If you look at the general pattern a species follows, you could sort them into nocturnal, diurnal or nocturnal/diurnal migrants. For instance on vismig counts you will rarely observe a few common species like Robin or most of the Sylvidae.
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 16:43   #98
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Roland, In replying to your post 95, it was an "in general" question, presumably Robins, Sylvias and Acros. for example are mostly nocturnal. FWIW from my experience during the Canary Wharf Migrant Project 2001-2005 most if not All migrants arrived overnight, for some reason certain bird species (Hawfinch being one) are not thought of as migrating in "flocks". Perhaps because in the UK we consider ourselves lucky to see just one or two, thus to see multiples would not register on the radar of possibility. Two more species that complied with that mindset during the CWMProject...were Garden Warbler c9 in a single tree May 2004, and 4 Wood Warblers + 2 Pied Flycatcher in a single tree Aug.2004. I suppose in the grand scheme of things...needs must! when opportunity presents itself to advantage migration.

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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 17:24   #99
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For instance on vismig counts you will rarely observe a few common species like Robin or most of the Sylvidae.
True, but is that because they are strictly night migrants where they have the option to be, or because they are migrating too high up to identify? They'd only have to be 100 m or so above ground level to be effectively unidentifiable; if they're 3 km high (as many small passerines can be), no chance!!
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 17:38   #100
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Thought that this might be of general interest regarding Hawfinch, and perceptions at the time, taken from the LNHS Birds of the London Area since 1900 (published by Collins in 1957).

''The great attraction of Epping Forest to the hawfinch is it's profusion of hornbeams. At times in the early months of the year the flocks under the hornbeams feeding on the seeds may run into hundreds, and this flocking has been noticed elsewhere in the area. Indeed one observer has been misled into supposing that these flocks, attracted to one spot by an abundance of food, are composed of migratory birds. There is, however, no evidence of anything but local movements among hawfinches anywhere in the British Isles''.

Footnote from the same publication: Howard Bentham recorded a flock of 260 at an unknown location in Surrey, just outside the 20-mile (LNHS) radius, in March, 1919.

The greatest number that I've ever encountered on my patch (the above) in 50 years, is circa half a dozen, and that was 45 years ago! Am looking forward to the coming Winter.
I have never seen more than six at a time, even when I lived in likely areas.
A flock of 260 is mind blowing to me.
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