Most people visit Sizergh for its Castle, gardens and to explore and enjoy the surrounding landscape, but hiding in the trees lurks another crowd puller - Hawfinchs! Birdwatchers flock to Sizergh to seek out this special visitor.
Hawfinch are usually shy birds spending most of their time in tree tops and are easily overlooked within even the lightest of foliage. In Spring (March, April, May) when leaves are absent they can be observed easier in the trees here in the car park. They are attracted to the seed and seed growth from the Beech and Hornbeam mast. They gather in small flocks (2-20max) with the best time to spot them being early morning and breakfast time! (dawn until 10.30am)
By late spring birds disperse into the local woodland to breed and it almost becomes impossible to see them within the canopy of leaves, unless they are seen in flight between trees or in woodland rides.
What to look out for:
They are a rather big finch (little bigger than a bullfinch) which has a powerful black triangular bill, big head and thick neck with a short tail. There dominant colours are rusty brown and buff with black, white and grey detail on there wings. In flight looks a rather dumpy bird and shows a conspicuous broad white wing bar on wings and tail is white tipped. The bill is grey-black in summer, horn-coloured in winter and has a distinctive black surround.
Apart from patience, here are some handy ways to find your own Hawfinch...
• Firstly it is important to know that they prefer to 'hang out' in the tops of trees. So scan the tops beforehand looking for a large finch to get an idea of where they are.
• They have a characteristic 'tick' call (which to some sounds like a coke can opening!), of which is the first sign of their presence. They can easily be muffled out in a woodland setting with other birds such as Robins and Song thrush also with a very similar call, but here in the car park they can be heard with relative ease.
• They are predominantly woodland birds preferring Beech, Hornbeam, Plum, Cherry and Yew.
At the Sizergh estate you will find a National Trust car park (grid ref. SD498878), cafe and toilets. Click here for full details on the facilities at Sizergh Castle.
I am a Ranger at Sizergh Castle. I have been with the Trust for 5 years and my job consists of a wide range of things from woodland management and coppicing, walling, general estate work and visitor engagement. There is lots of great wildlife on the Estate, which is my main passion. So, for instance sometimes I get to help people spot Hawfinches...as a "twitcher" myself this is a real bonus: a hobby I get paid for! It's not just birds though - with over 100 species now on my Sizergh list I am starting to develop a keen interest in butterflies and scarce flora when times are quiet for birds in the summer months.