Here in the UK we can sometimes be a tad apologetic about our native birds, because on the whole they're less spectacular than those of warmer and sunnier countries, and some of them (whisper it) are maybe even a little... drab. But I would assert that a mature male chaffinch in breeding plumage is a thing of glory. Seriously - just look at that colour palette! And this little guy hasn't even achieved his full pomp yet: when chaffinches grow new feathers after the annual moult, they come through buff-tipped (still visible on the head, nape and wings of this bird), and it's only as the tip wears away that the full colour of the rest of the feather is revealed.
Blessed by nature with glorious colouration, chaffinches are less lucky in being prone to the development of crusty lesions on their legs, caused either by a papillomavirus or a mite (or in some cases by both simultaneously); these can be mild, but in severe cases they render the bird lame, and vulnerable to starvation or predation. Sadly, as you can see, this male has thickened, pale, and lumpy legs, whereas in a fully healthy bird they would be slender and a dull, dark red colour, but he wasn't lame, and appears to be only mildly affected.
I awarded myself an hour in the bird hide at Hillers this lunch time, as a break between a morning of rushing around at home with R, preparing for a weekend visit by L and B, and their expected arrival at 2pm. In the event this arrival time slipped, and then slipped again, and they didn't actually get to us until the end of the afternoon, but even so I only spent about forty minutes in the hide, because the light was poor, there weren't many birds about, and there was an uncomfortably sharp wind slicing through the building. When I got so cold that all I could think about was coffee and cake, I went off to the café, where I bumped into a former work colleague and spent an enjoyable twenty minutes or so exchanging news and gossip.
This evening the Boy Wonder was on fine form, and although it's only six days since we last saw him, R and I both feel that there's been another step-change in both his vocabulary and his maturity.
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