THE Eurasian bullfinch is a beautiful, secretive bird from the finch family that can be seen in woodlands, hedgerows, parks and gardens.

With its striking and vibrant breast, the bullfinch brings a brilliant burst of colour to the UK’s landscape.

They are easily recognisable: the male bird has a black cap, stubby beak, grey back, white rump and a prominent rose-red breast. Females have similar plumage but they are pink rather than red. Juveniles look almost like females but are even duller with a brown head and face.

In terms of size, the bullfinch is plump and slightly larger than a robin.

Bullfinches adjust their diet throughout the year. In spring they rely on buds and shoots, then move to seeds and fruit from summer to winter. Occasionally they catch invertebrates to feed their chicks.

These birds are incredibly shy and quick to flee around people. If you manage to spot a flash of white rump or hear their quiet, melancholic “peu” call, your best chance of getting a good view is to quietly wait at a reasonable distance. Try to stay still and there is a chance the birds will comfortably feed around you. You can also try to attract them to your garden by putting out a selection of seeds, especially sunflower seeds, which are their favourite.

Bullfinches are probably my favourite little birds for photographing in winter. Saying this, I must mention that they are not easy to find and photograph!

Firstly, they don’t seem to be birds of habits – although I know their common spots, I am rarely lucky to visit the same place and see bullfinches. They appear to be constantly on the move.

Secondly, they are not loud birds – their call is so quiet that I have to strain to be able to pick out their song amongst other noises. I often hear them before I spot them.

In my photography career, I have shared two special moments with bullfinches so far. The first time was during my regular walk along the Esk when I spotted a flash of red between the foliage. It was difficult to have a closer look due to dense vegetation in front of me, but somehow, I found the tiniest gap and reached for my binoculars. At the other end of the glass, I could see a pair of bullfinches. The male was constantly flying back and forth to feed the female. It was one of the cutest scenes I have witnessed in wildlife photography.

The second time was during heavy snowfall in Musselburgh, when I spotted a pair of bullfinches on an abandoned field. I was there to photograph a resident buzzard but, as soon as I heard the familiar “peu”, I rushed towards it. The birds were hopping on the dried nettles, making their way towards me. I knew I could not stay there as this would spook them. I could feel the rush of adrenaline which accompanies me each time I come across my target species and have to think fast! I sat on the ground and started pushing the snow with my feet so that I would make a small heap in front of me. I then lay flat and used the snowy wall to hide my face.

As soon as the bird approached, I composed the frame and, boom – the photo was ready.

Purposely, I overexposed my photograph, so the snow was nice and even, and looked like a white canvas with a red bird painted on it.

I am hopeful that this winter will bring a lot of white photo opportunities and the bullfinches will play along.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Speak to you in February!