Twenty years ago I regularly saw Hawfinches flying over the woodlands neighbouring my garden and I found displaying birds in the immediate area but sadly the number of sightings steadily declined and it is now three years since I last saw one around Darley Dale.
Fortunately the winter flock at Cromford Meadows still survives and there are usually a dozen or so birds there each winter.
The RSPB has recently reported on a study conducted between 2012 and 2016 to understand the national decline of the Hawfinch. During the study they managed to find and monitor over 50 nests and whilst this is the start of a longer term study I was surprised to read the following;
Nest monitoring has revealed the number of young birds hatching and fledging as well as causes of nest failure, which have included poor weather and predation by jays, crows, goshawks and great spotted woodpeckers. Interestingly, there have been no recorded instances of grey squirrel predation despite them being common within the study woods.
So, I may have been a little unfair on the Grey Squirrel, at least in respect of their impact on Hawfinches.
Sat waiting for the Dusky Thrush, which only showed for 10 minutes during my four hour vigil this morning, I couldn't help smiling at the antics of this Grey Squirrel feeding on apples in the orchard.
RSPB 2016: Understanding Hawfinch declines