January 20th- bramblings come to the garden and robins sing their spring song again

We are isolating again, awaiting test results, so find ourselves restricted to watching garden birds. In the last few days a male and female brambling have started visiting the feeders. Judging by their flight line they are commuting back and forth between the small flock that is feeding in a maize field on the edge of Gilling woods.

The male is gorgeous, really deep, rusty orange. The upperparts are wearing down to black. This type of moult is called abrasive moult. Gradually the outer tips of the feathers wear down to reveal more of the colour of the inner feathers. In bramblings this means the upperparts of the male will eventually turn jet black in time for the breeding season. Its bill will also turn black. Male bramblings are striking in winter but become even more so by the time they arrive back on their Scandinavian breeding grounds in May. The female by contrast is very pale with a soft peachy orange breast and fawn and grey upperparts.

Bramblings love black sunflower seeds. I prefer to feed these in their husks which keeps the kernel cleaner and perhaps more likely free from contamination with disease.

Robins have been very conspicuous in the last few days with chases and territorial disputes commonly seen around the garden. They are seen in pairs more often. The rather melancholy winter song has been replaced by a louder spring song as males guard their new territories and attempt to secure a mate. At first light this morning two males were singing with great gusto either side of the garden.


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