Tuesday 19 January 2021

Brambling Therapy 16th January 2021

Now that I am confined by the covid lockdown to a small radius from my house, birding has become very limited for the foreseeable future. Fortunately there is a large mixed flock of finches, mainly Bramblings and Chaffinches, near my home that I can go and see each day and if I fancy some variety there is a long staying flock of Crossbills feeding in some conifers at another location that is even nearer. I suppose I should be grateful but even the sight of Bramblings and Crossbills can pall after seeing them day after day and I struggle to find something to fill my time and stop my mind entering dark places.

The weather has not helped as a succession of gloomy, fog shrouded days followed one another, the fog often not lifting all day. Today was different as, by way of change, a light dusting of snow arrived first thing with the dawn, before rapidly turning to rain. It could not get worse but consulting the Met Office weather forecast I found that the rain would cease during the morning and there was going to be a two hour window of sunshine from noon.

Determined to take advantage of this I decided on another visit to the Bramblings.The sunlight might even aid me to capture them adequately with my camera. Up to now it has been a struggle with the dull low light of the preceding days.

It is not easy to get close to these birds. Up to forty are mixed in with a larger number of Chaffinches and they are remarkably wary. I often find that a single bird can be more confiding than when in a flock, possibly due to it taking only one bird in the flock to become alarmed and flee which inevitably unsettles the rest and causes them to fly off too.

Today I slipped through the narrow gap in the hedge and stood by the edge of the field where the birds come down to feed. However they were not in the field but sitting up in a large hawthorn where the sun shone down on them. Presumably well fed, they were resting, content and feeling secure in the tree. At least ten Bramblings perched there, basking in the sunshine, occasionally preening or nibbling at emerging buds on the twigs but obviously intent on taking their ease. 

The orange breasts of the males glowed, the colour enhanced by the bright sun and contrasting with their gleaming white bellies. Some were now showing signs of emergent breeding plumage as the grey fringes to the black feathering on their heads showed varying degrees of wear, exposing more of the underlying black.

I tried to edge closer but they became instantly nervous, so I stood motionless, still some distance away. Most of them had sought to perch well inside the bush, bowered by the many twigs that undoubtedly gave them a sense of security but small birds are never still for long and occasionally one or two would move and expose themselves enough that I had a clear and unobstructed view. The opportunity never lasted for long, so one had to be quick off the mark before the bird concerned felt the urge to seek more cover.

For half an hour I stalked the birds but never got really close as they would take mild alarm at any movement on my part and in  company with the Chaffinches fly further along the line of trees to perch at what they felt was a safe distance from me.

An hour with the finches was however, all the diversion I needed to make the day become more bearable and my spirit as a consequence lightened markedly. 

Tomorrow it may be another dose of Brambling therapy or possibly a visit to the Crossbills.We shall see.These straws of hope are what I cling to now. 

One day at a time. Isn't that what they say? 


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