Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 13, 2021

Suburban invasion

A fall of fieldare

A covering of snow and persistent sub-zero temperatures across our part of the country appears to have prompted something of a suburban invasion. This winter seems to be a good one for winter thrushes around these parts. Every area of woodland or scrubland has had its attendant flock of redwing, scouring the branches for berries (the berry crop, for example, on hawthorn last autumn was the best I can remember for years). There have been fieldfare too, but in collectively smaller numbers, as would befit the relative abundant of the two species wintering in the UK each year. Both species descend southwards from the likes of Scandinavia and Russia to escape the harsh northern winter and feast on our autumn fruits, shifting to a more invertebrate-based diet later on when the berries become fewer and further between. The song thrush-sized redwing can number upwards of 8 million, dwarfing (to say the very least) the UK’s Scottish breeding population of a dozen or so pairs. The handsome chestnut and grey fieldfare occur in rather smaller quantities, but with well over 600,000 birds coming to us (usually only 1 or 2 pairs breed in Scotland) they are a common enough sight.

It may just be coincidence, with the exhausting of the berry crop around the countryside, but it seems that the recent snowfall has encouraged them into the gardens in search of sustenance, places where some berry-laden holly bushes and such like might still be heavy with fruit. The soft chack-chack-ing of the fieldfare and thin, whistled contact call of the redwing has become a familiar sound around town over the recent week or so. In our garden, for instance (not far from Southend in Essex), we normally have a handful of redwing turn up a few times each winter, with the fieldfare being a far less frequent visitor. The 36 strong flock of the latter, with a couple of redwing thrown in for good measure, crowding into the crown of our cherry tree, was therefore a most welcome surprise.

Such icy shifts in the weather ask questions of our winter wildlife, as alluded to in the previous post (and a few winters back my parents had a woodcock spend the day in their back garden, something to which the supermarket shoppers over the back fence would have been quite unaware!). Next week the forecast is suggesting a change perhaps to the low-teens centigrade. Within a few days we might be seeing the first butterflies of the year!

Fieldfare – Turdus pilaris

N.B. I endeavour to use my own images with these posts, so for a clearer image of the fieldare you might want to click here.

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