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Monday, 21 January 2013

Bramblings - on 18th January, 2013

As mentioned in my previous post, the continuous snow on Friday brought far more birds than we are used to into our garden. Although it was great to see the Mistle Thrush, in some ways it was the Bramblings that were most rewarding.

For a while now, I have been a little concerned about my ability to tell winter plumage male Bramblings from females. I'm now thinking that I, and a few other people more knowledgeable than myself, might have been getting it wrong. The Collins Bird Guide is not too specific, but indicates two main areas of distinction in winter plumage. The first is the the sides of the head in which the black of the male is, to varying degrees, concealed by pale fringes, whereas the head of the female remains grey and buff coloured. The second is the colour of the lesser wing coverts, which is unspotted rusty-yellow in the male, whereas those of the female are shown as being more dull, and spotted. Hayman and Hume in 'Bird' describe the female as having "only a small orange patch above bend of wing". 

I have to confess that my analysis of male or female, until Friday, was done primarily on the basis of the black showing through on the side of the face of the birds. On Friday, by analysing my photos, I came to the conclusion that at least four different Bramblings visited me during the course of the day - three of them male and one female.

The differing males I distinguished by the difference in the black showing on the sides of the head. These all exhibited broad bright-orange lesser wing coverts (above bend of wing). These are shown below (apologies for the quality of the images - shown for illustration purposes, rather than for their quality!)


Brambling (1st male) - our garden
There's plenty of black showing on this face, and the bright orange of the breast extends, unbroken, into the broad area on the wings.

The next bird, shown below, exhibits the same orange colouration (even from this slightly hindward view) but has virtually no black showing through the pale face feathers, except round the eyes.

Brambling (2nd male) - our garden
This next bird, even allowing for the fact that the image is much darker (it was starting to get dark outside by now), still shows the same orange markings, but has considerably more black showing through on the head than the previous two.

Brambling (3rd male) - our garden
Now I give you what I believe to be a female. Note the distinct change of colour from breast to (narrow) marking above the wing bend, and the pale face colouration with no trace of black. This bird is strikingly different in appearance.



Brambling (female) - our garden
When I look at an image from a previous post (see below) that I, and a few others, concluded was a female, I'm starting to think that maybe that was wrong!

Brambling (previously thought to have been female?) - our garden
I'm not knowledgeable enough to know whether I've come to the right conclusion with the above, but I'd welcome some input here!

Finally (on the bird front), although I'm convinced that I saw at least four different Bramblings in my garden on Friday, under my strict rules I can only only put it down as two on my garden list because they have to be seen simultaneously. As proof I did see two together I offer this (very poor) image - which also shows a marked difference between male and female birds, even if the female is badly out of focus.

Brambling (m & f) - our garden
Music

Another big influence on me in my schooldays was Gene Vincent. Later, in my college days, I was once privileged to meet him after a gig. He'd given us a blindingly energetic session on stage, and I was greatly saddened to see that he had to be helped back, on crutches, to his dressing room after the gig. This guy had a lot of pain (physical and mental) in his life.

36 comments:

  1. Lovely photos of a delightful bird, Richard. They hung around in our garden until quite late in winter last year, by which time the males' plumage had become very distinct. In some years, when there's a big beech mast crop, there are large flocks of them in Stanhope Dene in Weardale - although I haven't witnessed that for a few years ...

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    1. Thank you Phil. We didn't see any in the garden last winter, but had several visiting regularly over a long period the previous winter. It was facinating to watch the black develop in the males as spring approached. I've never seen one in full summer plumage, however.

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  2. Great bird! I seem to only remember seeing them in the snow!

    Stewart M

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    1. It's certainly a privilege to have them in our garden, Stewart.

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  3. An excellent and interesting post Richard, focusing on identifying male/female winter plumages on the Brambling. ID is often fraught with problems and you have outlined some plumage details in some depth here, some obvious, some not so obvious.

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    1. Thank you Pete - but have I got it right? ;-}

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  4. Yep, you certainly have much more of these beauties than here in the south of France.
    I find them very special, the males are so gorgeous!
    Lovely photos, Richard!

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    1. Thanks Noushka. These seem to come with the snow as it spreads southwards. Maybe when you get snow, it's more isolated to your elevated area?

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  5. Wow...amazing serie of the brambling!
    Well done Richard!

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    1. Thank you Willy. Love the images on your latest post!

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  6. You've got it right, though I'm not sure on a couple. Great captures.

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  7. Awesome captures of the birds in the snow, Richard.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Pam. I love your Red-shouldered Hawk images!

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  8. Crikey you had me going through my books. The image above the two on the feeder has me scratching my head to be honest, I thought at first-female, but I'm not sure and was wondering if it's a 1st winter/younger male, but it's that rusty mantle that takes me back to female again....not much help was it really :)So I'll stick my neck out and say FEMALE...probably

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    1. Thanks Doug. I'm glad it's not just me that finds Bramblings a little difficult to sex. If an old hand like you can't be positive, I guess that a novice like me can be excused for being confused! Like most things, it wouldn't be interesting if it was easy!!!

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  9. You lucky so and so, brilliant images mate!

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    1. Yeh - luck, and an annual garden bird seed budget that exceeds the photography budget!

      Thanks Paul!

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  10. Interesting variations of markings. Great captures!

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    1. Thank you Karen - loved your Downy Woodpecker!

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  11. Beautiful series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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    1. Thanks Gary. Best wishes to you both.

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  12. beautiful colorations on these birds. visiting from wbw. :)

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    1. Thank you TexWisGirl. Have had a look at your Barred Owl images - fabulous!

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  13. Handsome birds! I have never heard of bramblings before.

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    1. Thank you for dropping by. I'm very envious of your Snowy Owl images!

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  14. Beautiful plumage coloring on all those Bramblings.

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  15. Beautiful photography of this brambling. I've never seen one, so I enjoyed viewing all the different poses. Visiting from WBW. :)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Gail.

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    1. Thank you Hans. Your own photography is inspiring!

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  17. What a beautiful birds, gorgeous photos. Stopping in from WBW, have a great day!

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  18. Lovely images of the Bramblings. The last time I had a Brambling was in 2010 when we had the snow, not seen one since. They are lovely birds, love the orange in their plummage.

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    1. Thank you Linda. Not seen one in the garden since Saturday.

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