I decided that I would head into the New Forest with Brambling, Crossbill and Redpoll as my targets. There are often large wintering flocks of Chaffinch in the Bolderwood area and they usually contain a few Brambling. Mark Ash Wood gets its fair share of records and so I headed there and parked in the small layby. As I had driven up the Bolderwood Ornamental Drive I had seen quite a few Chaffinches flying up from the road side but none showed the white rump of a Brambling.
Just opposite the layby on the other side of the road there is a track down into a section of mature beech woodland. I headed down there and quickly found Chaffinches. In fact the ground seemed to be crawling with them although I couldn’t see any Brambling. I moved a bit closer and quite a few of them flew. Over the next hour it became apparent that they were very skittish flying regularly and then they would spend long periods in the tree tops as if they were plucking up the courage to come back down again.
I re-found large groups of Chaffinches quite easily and soon I was seeing the lovely orange tones of Bramblings. I counted at least five different birds but I’m sure there were many more and the Chaffinch flock probably numbered more than 200 birds. Stock Dove and Mistle Thrush were also new for the year.
I was then debating heading towards more coniferous parts of the forest, maybe the Canadian War Memorial for Crossbill and Lesser Redpoll but first I checked Going Birding and noticed that the Great Grey Shrike had been reported at the Duck Hole side of Holm Hill. As I was less than 10 minutes from where I would need to park I decided to change my crossbill and redpoll plans and I packed up my sketching stuff and headed off for the shrike.