Alyth Bird Blog #4
Birds you can spot in Alyth during lockdown – fourth in a regular series
Hello again! Is it just me or do you think that numbers of swifts, swallows and house martins have been slow to build this year? The cold northerly airflow can’t help, but there was also the sad news of many migrating birds perishing in the Aegean Sea during storms earlier this spring and I wonder if this is reflected in low numbers now?
This time we have three members of the finch family that can be found both visiting a bird feeder in the garden, or in parks and the countryside.
The chaffinch is one of the most widespread and abundant birds in Britain. The male bird’s (right hand image) colourful plumage of a slate-blue neck, chestnut back and pinkish-brown underparts is a familiar sight. Both sexes become most obvious when they fly, revealing a flash of white on the wings and white outer tail feathers. It tends not to feed openly on bird feeders - it prefers to hop about under the bird table hoovering up spillages of grain.
FACTOIDS: Research has shown that chaffinches exhibit regional dialects when they call, even within the UK. Some of the many Scottish folk names include binkie, blue cap, boldie, chay, chy, prink prink, sheefla, sheely, shilfa, sheltie, snabbie, tree lintie, and more locally in Angus – the wet chaff. Do you recognise any of these manes, or do you know any different ones?
Listen to the chaffinch by clicking the photo above
This is such a beautiful little bird that it is hard to believe that it is a common native British species and not an escape from an aviary collection of exotics. Sadly, it was indeed a very popular cage bird and the RSPB made its protection one of its first priorities when it was founded in 1904. Sociable, they have a delightful liquid twittering song and call. Their long fine beaks allow them to extract otherwise inaccessible seeds from thistles and teasels, but increasingly they are visiting bird tables and feeders.
FACTOIDS: The collective noun for goldfinches is a ‘charm’. In Scotland it used to be known as the ‘gooldspink’ or ‘thistle finch’.
Its twittering, wheezing song and flash of yellow and green as it flies, make this finch a truly colourful character. Nesting in a garden conifer, or feasting on black sunflower seeds, the greenfinch can be a regular garden visitor, sometimes squabbling among themselves or with other birds at the bird table.
Until recently, I encountered Greenfinch only infrequently whilst walking around Alyth; however this year I have heard dozens of males singing and holding territories all over town!
FACTOID: A recent decline in numbers (down 64% in the last 23 years) has been partly due to an outbreak of trichomonosis, a disease which prevents the birds from feeding properly. The spread of this disease has been linked to poor hygiene at garden feeders – a reminder to us that if we do decide to feed the wild birds we must regularly clean our feeders and tables.
Listen to the greenfinch by clicking the photo above
We hope that you have enjoyed our fourth Alyth Bird Blog – please feel free to comment or ask any questions. Next time we will look at three farmland birds.