Hawfinch, Coccothraustes coccothraustes Source: Wikipedia

It is an uncomfortable construct of a phrase and I rather detest it.
Linguistically it defines it’s meaning only if you know the code, representing the words ‘the first time in my life that I can tick this bird on a list’.
And that is where it fails me.
Life-tick does not represent the joy and excitement of seeing a bird in the wild for the first time, the hairs on the back of the neck that rise on seeing a shape in a tree that isn’t immediately recognisable, that sharpen the eyes when the gaze of your binoculars fall on the specimen and register that the shape of beak, body or tail are ‘different’.
I had one today.
It was my third visit to the churchyard in Bramfield and as last time, the ground was covered in snow, the village isolated in a sea of white that stretched across the acres of surrounding arable land. A rise in temperature released crystalline clumps to slide intermittently from the branches of the Yew trees, the receding blankets of white below pockmarked by drips from the high branches of the Hornbeams.
The moment of discovery was more of a sensing than an observation. Standing quietly on the path listening to the splatter of the thaw and the gentle calling of Jackdaws perched on distant chimney-pots, eyes spontaneously glanced high and over my left shoulder to a silhouette perched in the delicate upper branches above. The knowledge that I had found my quarry was immediate, though unconfirmed until glasses focussed on the shape.
Large, chunky bill. A touch of black at the throat. A chaffinch/greenfinch cross with a hint of waxwing coming from its smooth beige-peach breast. A stubby tail but a finches sink and bob flight completed the picture and finalised the identity.
And so the Hawfinch is added to my list. A list not kept for competition but as a register of the birds I have had the privilege of seeing, lest an ageing memory forget.
And a life-tick for sure, but so much more.

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