VISITORS have a are opportunity to catch a glimpse of an elusive bird on the Sizergh Estate, near Kendal, this month and next.

Hawfinches are native to this country but are rarely seen out in the open, preferring the cover of dense woodland to gardens and parks.

At this time of year they emerge to feed on the fallen seeds of the hornbeam trees found in the car park at Sizergh Castle, and to find a mate, said the National Trust's Lucy Tickle, senior marketing and communications officer for south east Cumbria and Morecambe Bay.

The castle's cafe veranda is one of the top spots in the North of England to see these shy birds, said Lucy.

On certain dates, National Trust ranger Rob Pocklington will be offering expert guidance on how best to spot a hawfinch.

People are invited to arrive early, between dawn and 10am, or to join one of the free hawfinch watches tomorrow or Saturday (February 22 and 23) at 8am.

The free events will also be taking place at 8am on Friday, March 1; Saturday, March 2; Friday, March 8; Saturday, March 9; Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16.

On these days the Sizergh Castle cafe will open earlier than usual, from 9.30am.

The ranger-led hawfinch watches are held every year, said Lucy, and always prove popular with visitors.

The hawfinch's characteristic 'tick' call is the first sign of its presence, and has been compared to the sound of a fizzy drink can opening

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