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|
|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|
|Brambling (previously thought to have been female?) - our garden|
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|
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.