A Garden Birder’s Diary: Fab Finches

Finches are the favourite garden bird family for many, they provide a splash of colour, varied songs and calls and good variety at the garden feeders. As we reach mid-summer many of this year’s juveniles are just finding their way to garden feeders. Goldfinches have been the first to arrive at my sunflower hearts, their tinkling, musical flight calls as they arrived alerting me to their presence. Plainer juveniles were accompanied by just a single adult; it doesn’t take them long to get to grips with using the feeder.

Goldfinches are garden-wanderers, they drop in for brief spells but don’t linger around the garden all day during the summer unlike some other species. As soon as they arrive they often disappear again in a burst of calls and golden wing-flashes to who knows where before returning later in the day. Hopefully they will be followed by Bullfinches and Greenfinches too, particularly the latter as numbers have been low in recent years.

Many of the finches feeding in our gardens in winter spend their summers away from gardens higher up in wooded valleys in the hills. Go walking at this time of year and often one of the few birds you’ll hear still singing is another of our ‘garden’ finches, the Chaffinch. Even high in the hills above the tree-line it was the only bird-song I heard on a hill-walk last week aside from the more expected Meadow Pipits and Skylarks.

Further afield finches were in the news this week with some good news from Malta that the European Court of Justice has declared the extensive Autumn finch-trapping there illegal. This is the culmination of a lengthy legal battle after the Maltese government allowed the trapping of seven different finch species each Autumn claiming a loop-hole in the EU Birds Directive. The intense nature of this trapping – with over 6000 registered trapping stations – has seen licences for up to 40,000 birds to be trapped each Autumn. Finch-trapping is a traditional pastime in the Mediterranean that has declined in many other countries due to EU protections but does continue illegally in many places. Many of the finches trapped in Autumn would have wintered in the Middle East before moving back to Europe to breed in the Spring.

Our Garden Birder – Alan Tilmouth

Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.