With winter drawing on, I thought it would be a good time to look at some birds especially seen at this time of year, the finches. Chunky little birds, they are roughly the size of a sparrow. There is quite a variety, but I will stick to the ones you are most likely to see.
Chaffinches are probably the most regularly seen of the finch family. The males are resplendent with blue bonnets and pinky chests. The females are less colourful, in brown and white. This because the females that sit on nests and so want to be camouflaged to avoid drawing unwanted attention. In contrast, both the male and female goldfinch look the same, with red and white faces and the bright yellow stripe on their wing that gives them their name. They tend to make nests really far out on twigs, making it hard for predators to reach them. Green finches are, unsurprisingly, green. The biggest of our common finches, they really can be chunky beasts.
All three species mentioned so far can be found coming to your garden all year round. But there are extra birds, particularly in the winter. Bramblings are essentially the Scandinavian version of chaffinches. They arrive each year in the autumn to winter on our fields. Their arrival often coincided with the best blackberry or bramble season, hence the name. Linnets are small and brown, the males have a reddish chest and patch on their head. They can be found on the fields, often forming small twittering flocks. Siskins are also small, but bright green. They live at the tops of trees, especially alder and birch. Alongside them may be lesser redpoll. Small and brown, like linnets, with a red splodge on their head that gives them their name (poll being an old English word for head). Finally bullfinches are stocky birds that live in hedges and orchards. The male has a really bright pink chest and black cap, the female looks like a washed-out version. Yet they are surprisingly hard to see, sitting quietly rather than making a lot of noise.
Phew, that is just one or two birds to look out for. All a bit confused? Drop into the visitor centre at Frampton Marsh and the helpful people on duty will be happy to give you a hand.
Dr Chris Andrews is Visitor Experience Manager at RSPB Frampton Marsh