Birds in Your Garden: The Chaffinch

birdwatchThe Chaffinch is one of our more familiar birds with a significant population – some six million territories – and a broad range of habitats within which it breeds. It is a regular garden visitor, attracted to seed provided in hanging feeders and on bird tables.
The Chaffinch’s scientific name Fringilla coelebs was assigned by Linnaeus in 1758 and refers to the bird’s migratory behaviour; ‘coelebs’ means ‘unmarried’ and Linnaeus gave the Chaffinch this name when he observed that the birds wintering around his home in Sweden were mainly males. The females from northern breeding grounds wintered further south than the males, a pattern of behaviour known as differential migration – where one sex or age group shows different migratory behaviour to another. Generally, females and juveniles winter further south than adult males, suggesting that competition for food and roosts may decide which birds can winter at higher latitudes.

It is not unusual to see Chaffinches with grey or off-white rather ‘crusty’ leg growths. There are two main causes: mites of the genus Cnemidocoptes, and a virus called Chaffinch Papillomavirus. They are fairly similar in appearance and there is evidence to suggest that both can occur together. Although most birds showing signs of these diseases are bright, active and able to feed, some become lame and others may suffer from secondary bacterial infections. While captive birds with mites can be treated it is not possible to target wild birds with suitable medicines, leaving good hygiene practice at garden feeding stations as the best way to reduce the impact of these diseases.
The recent decline in Chaffinch populations shows a change in fortune for a species which had been increasing in numbers over recent decades. We know that Chaffinches were affected by the 2006 outbreak of finch trichomonosis, with a decline in numbers of a fifth recorded in some regions; but things seemed to go back to normal after a couple of years. Then, for some reason there was another noticeable decline in the reported numbers in 2013/14.
We all know that the plumage of the male Chaffinch changes through the course of the year, being at its finest ahead of the breeding season. But did you know that the steely-blue colouring of the head and nape, which contributes to the breeding plumage, is not produced by the bird moulting through new feathers. Instead it is the dull brown feather tips that wear away to reveal the colour hidden away below.
British birds are slightly smaller but more brightly coloured than the continental immigrants who arrive to join our resident birds in late autumn. These arrivals often bring smaller numbers of the related Brambling with them, a real treat for garden birdwatchers. The numbers of both species wintering here may be influenced by the size of the beech mast (seed) crop across Europe. In those years when the crop is poor we see more of them, with many moving into gardens to take sunflower hearts and high energy seed mixes, especially when our beech mast crop is poor too.

btoIf you find the lives of our garden birds to be of interest, and would like to join in and count the feathered occupants of your garden, please contact me or visit the BTO Garden BirdWatch website ( If you know of a local organisation who would like a talk on garden birds call: Mike Gray 07596 366342 or

Recycling Wagon

recyclingThe Recycling Wagon will be at the Back Lane Car Park in Boroughbridge from 9.00am to 12.30pm on the following dates:


March 12, April 9, May 14, June 11, July 9, August 13, September 10, October 8, November 12, December 10


February 11, March 11

News from Boroughbridge Young Farmers

A few weeks ago, Boroughbridge YFC members John Cowton and Rosie Wilson went through to northern area from county with public speaking. Next month the club have stockman of the year (includes judging animals on their looks for either meat or breeding) and also the swimming gala.

On Sunday 21st February the YFC have their annual Muck Chuck, raising money for the club and the MS society. They will be going round the villages near Ouseburn and selling wheelbarrows of muck for £2. A great day with lots of laughs; and a few of the parents get together and make up the lunch.

The main fundraiser that the YFC are organising at the moment is their 70th dinner which is on 2nd April at York race course. The evening will include a three course meal, a band called The Milk Men,  and then a DJ for afterwards. Tickets are £35. It’s a great milestone for the club, and some of the founder members will be there helping out on the night. For more information call Ben Winn on 07840 339110 or email

Photographic Exhibition

Boroughbridge and District Historical Society are holding a Photographic Exhibition in the Jubilee Room above Boroughbridge Library on Easter Saturday 26th March, from 10am to 4pm. This is another chance to see the research done by The Dog Kennel Lane Project group at Langthorpe.

Archive photographs of Boroughbridge in the past, and Boroughbridge in World War II will also be on display. If you have any photographs you would like to add to the archive please bring them along. Winning entries in the Yore Vision/Lower Ure News photographic competion will also form part of the Exhibition.

As part of the Boroughbridge Walking Festival that weekend, there will also be a guided walk of the Dog Kennel Lane Heritage trail created by the project group; this will take place on Good Friday 25th March at 10am from under the A1M flyover bridge at Langthorpe.

For further details see Festival walking leaflet or tel 01423 322988.

Charity Zumba Event

There will be a Charity Zumba Event on Saturday 12th March at The Studio, Glebe Farm, Lower Dunsforth, YO26 9RZ. 45-minute timeslots are available from 1pm until 4pm. Pre paid tickets only; adults £10 (including raffle ticket) children £5.

It does not matter if you have never done Zumba before, come along and have a go. All the family are welcome. The aim of the event is to raise money to help Izzy walk; for full information visit Just Giving – Help Izzy Walk.

To book tickets, please call 07841 054967 or email