Britain has 16 species of birds we call finches (despite them coming from a few different families) most are seed feeders and generally the males are very colourful.
October is a great time to get to know and photograph our finches. Most are naturally woodland birds but increasingly common in our gardens. In winter they become more gregarious, often feeding in mixed flocks. The amount of birds increase too as high numbers fly to the British Isles from the continent for the milder winter weather.
I've seen these changes on the feeders in our back yard where Greenfinch have reappeared after their solitary summer elsewhere. My research says that finches, especially Chaffinches, often form same sex flocks, I have not noticed this myself but will pay more attention this year! Winter is the only time to see Bramblings and their lovely autumnal orange markings, as they fly abroad during summer. Twite are also on the move in winter which could work to our advantage when they visit the Northumberland coast; this is quite a change from their usual home of Scottish moorland. Quite a plain brown bird, I dont think I’ve ever seen one but I imagine they could be mistaken for a female of another species.
One reason I chose finches to include in the newsletter is I think they are really accessible, even my yard in the middle of an estate gets loads. Sunflower hearts are the main attraction, I use a hanging seed feeder but I don't recommend being too tidy as the seeds which fall to the ground please the less agile members of the mixed finch flock. In large numbers they feel safe and they will return to the garden quickly after being disturbed, making them very forgiving models. As is often the case, a bit of prep work could lead to great results. Can you hang the feeder somewhere that you can see well from a comfortable spot and ideally with a pleasant or neutral background for your images? You will know when you are most likely to see the birds, if possible consider the direction of the light at that time so you are not having to shoot towards the sun. My favourite wildlife images hide the man made feeders and show some animal behaviour/activity. Often I watch the branches and fences nearby rather than the feeder itself, watching out for them landing to eat a seed, ready to capture any calling and tussling that goes on. Inevitably most of my shots end up being straight ones such as those below, great for seeing the bird clearly but better suited to an ID guide than a story book, hopefully you will capture more action.
Did you know:
According to Bede, the Anglo Saxons deemed the first moon of October as the beginning of winter (they only recognised two seasons) and for this reason named October Winterfylleth, derived from the terms for winter and full moon. Sticking to that system, winter is due to begin next Sunday the 9th. Brrrr