Brambling

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When I was at Hillers a few days ago, the nice man I was chatting to in the hide told me that there had been a brambling there a week or so earlier, but that it had now left and he didn’t expect it to return. Today I nearly swallowed my camera when – just after I’d sat down in the hide and sorted out monopod, settings, and (extremely necessary) gloves – I glanced up at the bird table and saw this beauty sitting on one of the posts. I was so excited I fumbled the focusing, and by the time I had him clear in the viewfinder he’d already been posing for several seconds. I only managed a burst of five frames, of which the final one contained half a departing brambling. This is the penultimate shot, and if you could view the whole sequence you’d see that he was gathering himself for take-off at this point – his back is slightly arched, and his tail is moving. Nonetheless, the image is sharp in all the places I care about, and I’m delighted to have taken it.

I thought I’d never blipped a brambling before, but a search of the site has proved me wrong: I posted one as an extra back in February 2019, when I spotted some at Nant yr Arian. I hadn’t seen one since, until today. Bramblings are almost exclusively winter visitors to the UK, virtually never breeding here, and their numbers vary hugely from year to year, depending on food supplies. They’re especially partial to beech nuts, and can arrive in huge numbers in a mast year, but they’re adaptable and will eat a variety of seeds and nuts, including bird table food. They’re extremely gregarious, and though they will flock with other finches, it would be unusual to see just one at a particular site – so I wasn’t surprised, on processing my images this evening, to realise that there were several differently marked males in the woodland at Hillers this afternoon. I hope my new acquaintance gets a chance to see them before they decide to move on.

I managed less than an hour in the piercing cold of the hide, but still came home with far more photos than I’d thought I was taking. I’ve put a few of my favourites, including a different shot of this brambling, on my Facebook page, if you’d care to take a look. The good thing about the fact that I couldn’t feel my face or any of my extremities by the time I tottered out of the hide was that I felt it was medicinally necessary to veer into the cafĂ© to buy a hot drink, so I could warm up before getting in the car. Once I was there, I realised that it would be rude not to have a piece of chocolate tiffin with my coffee – and as you know, my manners are always beyond reproach….