Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great Pied Mountain Finches on the bird table


Back in the days when Thomas Bewick was engraving the plates for his famous History of British Birds (published between 1797 and 1804) bramblings were also known as great pied mountain finches , and also as tawny buntings. The specimen that he drew and then engraved came from "high, moory grounds". These days - in my part of Durham at least - bramblings are fast becoming garden birds. We currently have a small flock of over a dozen birds visiting the bird table and at the moment there are more bramblings than chaffinches in the garden. 


It's interesting to note how many species that were once uncommon on bird tables - long-tailed tits, goldfinches and siskins, for example - have become resident bird-table feeders, perhaps as a result of the wider countryside becoming less hospitable. Wood pigeons too have become garden birds, breeding three times a year in our garden and opting for easy handouts rather than foraging for themselves. Are we developing an ornithological  dependency culture and how is this unnaturally high concentration of bird species in a single location affecting their behavioural interactions?


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What I find particularly interesting is the pecking order that develops amongst this disparate group of bird table visitors. Greenfinches used to rule the roost until the siskins, which are remarkable aggressive despite being only half the size of a greenfinch, arrived in mid-winter. Now the bramblings, which I always looked on as being rather timid during their rare appearances, seem to be becoming remarkably assertive in the finch hierachy now that they've arrived mob-handed. Do they become more aggressive because they gain confidence from being present as a flock?






















One particularly enjoyable aspects of the bramblings' continued presence at this time of year is the way in which their breeding plumage develops - especially cock birds like this one.


For a fine photographic summary of a garden's bird visitor's, take a look at Midmarsh John's blog, where he is currently celebrating the second anniversary of his excellent blog. 

8 comments:

  1. It's amazing how many small birds survived through December. How they manage is hard to understand. Nice to see his best coat growing. Soon be spring.

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  2. Lovely shots of this beautiful bird Phil.
    I don't see many round here, and certainly not in my garden.
    I think the birds are having to adapt, simply because there's too many people on the planet, plundering the resources, and destroying the land.

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  3. From microscopic to telescopic. You take amazing photos!

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  4. The first shot is a real cracker Phil. Not seen any round here for a while.

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  5. Hi Adrian, you can see the colours of the cock bird growing brighter almost on a daily basis...

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  6. Hi Keith, we sometimes see very large flocks of bramblings in beechwoods at Stanhope Dene in Weardale, if it has been a beech 'mast' year...

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  7. Thank you One, there are some pretty amazing photos on your blog too..

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  8. The bird table is only about 5 feet from the conservatory windows John, so as long as I sit still I can get some OK pictures...

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