As the winter winds arrive, our gaze is cast to the east coast and the arrival of the northern migrants. One species in particular has become a familiar site in our upland garden, the Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla).
A winter migrant from the boreal birch forests of Scandinavia and Asia, the Brambling or ‘mountain finch’ is the northern counterpart to our familiar Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs). Striking and bold, even in it’s winter plumage, the male Brambling can brighten the dullest winter day, but to see them in the snow is something else. A contrast of colour that we don’t often see in our native finches, the fiery glow of orange set apart by the black of the tail, wings and head is something of a visual masterpiece.
Brambling arrive in the UK during the winter months in search of Beech mast, their preferred food source. They travel through the continent stopping at their favoured Beech woodlands until the food source has ran out, or snow blankets the ground. In very cold winters, or at times when the Beech mast is low, Brambling can arrive in the UK in impressively large numbers.
After their journey across the North Sea, which they take by night, Brambling can be found at well known Beech woodlands, and when natural food begins to run low, grace our humble garden feeding stations!
Scanning through a flock of Chaffinch, Brambling blend in remarkably well, but in flight they give away a secret, tell tale sign; as they fly they show a white rump, a feature that their southern counterpart doesn’t have.