Country Corner - A handsome winter visitor searching for food

The brambling will feast on fallen seeds.
The brambling will feast on fallen seeds.

A favourite finch of many countrymen is the handsome brambling, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Primarily, the brambling is a winter visitor to these isles and never guaranteed.

Some winters I see none at all, sometimes just one or two and only rarely a foraging flock.

Like so many of our winter visitors, most come from the northeast – from Scandinavia eastwards across northern Russia to the Bering Sea.

Of course, that area can suffer some severe winter weather, which is when our Gulf Stream climate starts to look so welcoming.

Brambling are great lovers of beech nuts or 'mast'.

Wherever they encounter beech trees they will check out the harvest.

If there is enough mast, they will hang around until they finish it or chasing snow pushes them south.

Having been here since autumn, many are running out of beech mast by now.

This is why singles or small parties may turn up at bird feeders early in the year.

No doubt that is why this female was using the feeders I maintain for a client recently.

As you can see they are smart little birds, not unlike the more common chaffinch with which they often associate.

In fact, an easy way to find bramblings is to watch chaffinch flocks and try to spot one with a white rump as they fly.

This white patch is the most noticeable identification feature of the species.

At feeders they are most likely to be seen on the ground, foraging for fallen seed.

Another typical place to see brambling is where beech trees line roads.

Her fallen beech nuts are crushed by car tyres and chaffinches and bramblings are never far away from the feast.

So look out for that flash of white!