Birch is a pioneer species and has tiny seeds which float on the wind so it is able to colonise new ground quickly. It is the dominant tree in the glades and woodland edges at Hembury Woods, Buckfast where I spend many hours watching long-tailed tits over the winter. Each year the birches attract several bullfinches which come to feed on the seeds. Last winter was exceptional with about 20 birds in small flocks scattered across the woods. They are shy and easily disturbed by the numerous dog walkers so it took a while before I found a few quiet spots where I could sketch them.
Their low pitched short ‘phu’ calls attracted me to the spots where they were feeding then if I sat quietly and watched from a distance using my telescope I could sketch them acrobatically feeding on the catkin like seed heads of the birches.
Occasionally they were joined by goldfinches and a flock of about 50 lesser redpolls, but these were more tricky to sketch as they were easily spooked and rarely stayed in one place for long.