owering electricity pylons bisect the western edge of Haldon Forest, their splayed metal arms echoing the shapes of surrounding conifer trees, as if they have broken ranks from the plantation pines. It is bitterly cold but I take a seat at the foot of a pylon. I have come in search of one of Britain’s most elusive birds and the surrounding woodland, I have been assured, is the place to spot it.
Hail soon begins peppering the ground around me and causing the power cables above to fizz alarmingly. I consider retreating to my car, but a sudden sharp pit!jolts my senses like a static charge. The storm passes and I hear the sound again, tracing its source to a bird perched deep within a stand of hornbeam trees. I can just make out a heavy head fronted by a powerful nutcracker of a beak. It is enough to identify it: a hawfinch. My luck is in.