Saturday, 16 January 2010

Winter Visitors

There has been lots of activity in the garden during the dreadful weather we have all been experiencing here in the UK. The poor birds have been desperate for food and have been eating it as fast as I put it out. The Collared Doves (above) along with all the other regulars have been eating me out of house and home!

The Redwing which I showed on my last post continued to visit until all the berries were gone but I haven't seen it since. Again, all of the photos on this post were taken through glass.


'Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone
From holly and cotoneaster.'
(Thomas Hardy)

I have been putting apples out for the Blackbirds and any other birds which might like them and was very much hoping to attract the Blackbird's foreign cousin, the Fieldfare, a bird I have never seen at all. I noticed lots of fellow bloggers were seeing them but really didn't expect they would visit me. However, on Tuesday, the day before we had yet more snow, I was thrilled, in the late afternoon to see at least eight eating the apples I had put out. I wasn't able to get any, even half decent, photos as it was getting dark but the next day just one appeared and my goodness, what an aggressive character it was! The Blackbirds, who themselves have been very aggressive during this weather, weren't allowed a look in although there was plenty of fruit for all.


It spent so much time chasing away any Blackbirds that got anywhere near any of the apple that there wasn't much eating going on at all, such a waste of energy! I spotted one enterprising soul trying the 'back door method', it slithered into the flower border and crept along the back, under several shrubs and emerged at the other end only to be ambushed by the patrolling Fieldfare the moment it emerged. I felt so sorry for it as I thought it was a very cleverly worked out tactic :)

I do think they are handsome birds. A member of the thrush family (Turdidae), just a little larger than a Blackbird and with a similar stance to the Mistle Thrush, they are often seen in flocks with another cousin, the aforementioned Redwing. The photo below shows how they fan their tail feathers when seeing off other birds, they do look very imposing!

It really did waste an awful lot of eating time by constantly watching for any other birds which might try to share the apples.

'I have remembered when the winter came,
And where the fieldfare followed in the rear,
When all the fields around lay bound and hoar,
Beneath a thick integument of snow.'
{Robert Frost}

'Snow and sleet, and sleet and snow.
Will the Winter never go?'
(Katherine Mansfield)

Another bird which only visits the garden when there is snow is the Pied Wagtail and on Tuesday there were two. Usually they get a very hard time from the Blackbirds but this time they had the Fieldfare to contend with as well! As well as the apples, I had scattered mixed seed, dried mealworms, sultanas, mild grated cheese and suet pellets on the ground and despite the wagtail being predominantly insectivorous it was definitely eating apple, I suppose, desperate times call for desperate measures!

Pied Wagtail

It was very successful at dodging the Fieldfare and most of the time just bobbed out of the way with great agility but every now and again it was scared away to a further part of the garden.

'And the snow lies drifted white
In the bower of our delight,
Where the beech threw gracious shade
On the cheek of boy and maid:
And the bitter blasts make roar
Through the fleshless sycamore.'
(Willa Cather)

Once, it was frightened onto the back of a garden chair, right outside the window.

Of course, as I said at the beginning, the more usual garden visitors have been visiting regularly as well and this Starling looked like it was wondering, in the (slightly amended) words of Travis, 'Why does it always snow on me?'!


While these two decided that, despite the weather, it was bath time.

A drink was enough for this Collared Dove.

Collared Dove

The Greenfinch is one of the most common visitors to my garden all year round.


The other visitor I have been awaiting the return of is the Blackcap, a delightful little bird which I have seen in my Winter garden for the last few years. So far, this time, I have not been able to get a photo of the female but I have seen glimpses of her with her beautiful chestnut coloured cap. They particularly enjoy the fat treats but as I mentioned on my last post, the fatballs have not been very popular this year. However I did manage to capture the male Blackcap investigating them. This enchanting little bird has a beautiful fluting song which has earned it the well deserved name 'northern nightingale', it is also said to be a very good mimic.

'Thou speak'st the truth thou grave black-cap,
I've heard thee with delight,
When thou wert free from care, thou sat'st,
And chanted'st all thy might.

Thy blended notes are most complete,
Yet varied all the while,
Thy symphonies display the grace
of nature's complex style.
Methought at times, that all the birds
Which sing were perched with thee,
Thou did'st so exquisitely send
Their sev'ral tones to me.'
(James Lawson}

Here, with a Blue Tit

Blackcap and Blue Tit

and here, he seems to have spotted me!

'Under the twigs the blackcap hangs in vain
With snowwhite patch streaked over either eye
This way and that he turns and peeps again'
(John Clare)

Well, thankfully, overnight, most of the snow has been washed away by rain and today we have returned to relatively milder temperatures accompanied, this early evening, as the light fades, by fog. I hope the weather where you are is improving and that you enjoy the rest of the weekend and the week to come.


  1. another brilliant post shysongbird.Fabulous photographs especially like the fieldfare photos

  2. You may be envious of my Siskin and Brambling today - but I have only ever had one Fieldfare in my garden, and Blackcap has not visited me since one in November, Pied wagtails are very rare visitors to my garden!

    Keep up the feeding, you'll find another new bird soon!

  3. ShySongbird ,
    So glad you got your Fieldfare . As you say , it is a striking and very assertive bird , and great photos of it too .
    With thje Blackcap , Pied Wagtail and Collared Dove , Redwing and Greenfinch , it was just like looking out into our back garden , most enjoyable .

  4. Excellent post, as always. A great collection of garden visitors, and beautifully captured ShySongbird.
    Probably the only good thing to come from all this snow, for us, is the great variety of birdlife that visits the garden.
    Lovely shots of the Fieldfare; a really handsome bird. Good to see the Blackcap too.

    Let's hope this mild weather lasts so they can all stock up on their food a bit easier.

  5. Your photos are gorgeous, as always. I've noticed a few more birds around, now we're into the middle of January. I hope the heavy weather this month hasn't been too hard on them.


  6. Lovely pictures, especially the ones of the Fieldfare in the snow. I was hoping I would get some pictures of my Fieldfare in the snow but we, down here in the South, did not get a lot of snow. Now the weather has changed and it is mild, my Fieldfare is not around so much. Love the poems too.

  7. What a treat it always is to visit here and to see all the wildlife in your back yard! The fieldfare is a new bird to me; I enjoyed seeing all his antics. He must be quite an imposing figure to scare away the blackbirds. And the pied wagtail is another lovely creature. As always, I love the poetry that accompanies the photos; you always seem to find the perfect fit for each one.

    The snow is melting here,too, but that means foggy days and slippery ice after dark. For us, winter will last much longer--we're sure to have more snow again. Glad to hear you are thawing out, though.

  8. ShySongbird I am so jealous! You say you've never seen a Fieldfare before then you get one turn up in your garden! I have to travel to the nearest reserve to catch a glimpse of them! Your photos are just gorgeous & inspiring as is your post (as always!) - I can't wait for your next one.

  9. lovely post. How did you stop the bird's water freezing?

  10. SO glad you are getting a little respite from the snow!! Awesome photos!!! Your fieldfare reminds me of our White Throated Sparrow!! So gald they gave you a visit...great shots of them!! I know the birds had a time with my suet its Frozen!! So that may be one reason they havent had a fancy for the fat balls!!
    I hope you are feeling well!! I was glad to see a that great line by Willa Gather..I enjoy her work...have a fine week end!

  11. swatson

    Thank you very much Sheila, you are very kind and I do hope your husband's health is improving.

    Warren Baker

    Thank you. Yes, I am envious of your Siskin and Brambling :) It is frustrating that I was visited by both two years ago, before I had a decent camera :( But...I do feel very lucky to have had the Winter visitors that I've had. The bad weather did bring us some bonuses!


    Thank you so much :)
    It really was a thrill to see the Fieldfares, the snow did bring some rewards!
    I would just like to have some Foxes in the garden (as you do) now, as we used to, before they were 'dealt with', at the request of ignorant neighbours, by the local council :(

  12. Beautiful photos of the birds Jan! I'm glad it's warmed up for you. It has here too. Seems so nice after all that zero weather. Hope all is well over there. Take care of yourself. Hugs!

  13. Great fieldfare photos! That is not a bird we have here in the US. We are having a cold spell of extraordinary length; it has not been above freezing for more than a month. Oddly enough, this is the first winter we have seen startlings and gold finches this far north! They seem to be doing OK though. Great post, I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the lovely photos.


  14. Exceptional photos of your winter visitors, accompanied by the lovely verses you have chosen. Congratulations on your Fieldfare! It's so exciting when something you have been hoping to see hops into the picture! Although the snow is causing the birds difficulty, it does add a great contrast to show the birds off well. I hope you have been able to get out and replenish your stock!

  15. Great post Jan with some lovely shots, glad you had a fieldfare visit they are such a smashing bird. Great on the Blackcap have not had one in the garden this year, still time yet though.

  16. love the post jan, hope you are well, did you manage to keep your birdbath free from ice, i tried but the ice became so hard that it was like concrete, resorted to putting out small containers which i replaced everyday,

  17. Hi again Jan, wonderful to see you able to post again. I hope your eyes are improving. I am guessing the glare of snow from looking out your window wasn’t good for you.

    Yes, undoubtedly the snow did bring in great opportunities for the gardenwatchers. Some (like the female Blackcap) we only saw once. It was still a treat.

    How brilliant that you did persuade the Fieldfares to feast on apples in your garden. We saw one but sadly it didn’t bring friends and I didn’t see it at our apples. It was certainly fun looking out to see who the weather brought in :-D

    Great series of Fieldfare shots! Loved the male Blackcap too – its been a few years since I’ve spotted it in my garden. I wonder what you will see next. Blue tits investigating nestboxes perhaps?

    Wishing you a relaxing Sunday and a great week ahead :-D

  18. Jan,

    As always such a lovely post a mix of superb photos and poems. The rich variety of birds you have been getting in your garden clearly they know there is food there for them to see them through the hard time. The Fieldfare and Redwings are some of my favourite Winter visitors, memories of when I was young and used to go and search for them.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.


  19. How great to get the Fieldfare, I have seen them before but never managed to get them in the garden. Beautiful photos. Isn't it nice now the snow has gone!!

  20. a lovely post - so happy for you that you were visited by fieldfares! i've only ever seen one or two out in the countryside, never in my garden. sounds as though you get some lovely, varied garden visitots - and some nice shots of them :)

  21. Super roundup of your winter visitors Jan. Gold star for the Fieldfare shots. FAB.

  22. some super visitors. welldone to get a shot of fieldfare!

  23. Hi,

    Some great photos, seeing that Fieldfare must have been brilliant- and to see eight of them at once... that really is amazing. Great photos too, much better than I managed. If you don't mind me asking, what lens(es) do you use for your bird photos.

  24. A wonderful set of pictures Shysongbird! Love the fieldfare pics, i know what you mean about them wasting so much time and energy chasing off the other birds!!I watched mine do just that, and thought exactly the same!! The pied wagtail is lovely, great pictures! I think theyre cheeky little things! My wagtail chases off most of the birds!!! xxx

  25. Hi Jan.....lovely captures of the fieldfare....they are such lovely looking birds, aren't they. I have had a flock in the garden taking the haws.....they have virtually cleared the trees.
    I read on another blog how aggressive they are but I must confess I did not notice that why they were feeding here.

    The wagtails are such timid little birds. We have one that sits in the tree and waits till the other birds have dined. I always fill the floor feeder up again so that he gets his fair share......

    A beautiful post Jan....but then again, they always are.

    I do hope that you are feeling a little better and getting back to some sort of normality.......

  26. Hi there !
    Love the blog - beautiful photographs.

  27. A brilliant set of photographs of you Winter visitors Jan. Pleased you got some Fieldfare, even if they are bullies. It is very rare to see a wagtail in the garden here though there are plenty nearby and I have yet to see a Blackcap. The fat balls here were virtually ignored during the harshest weather, maybe frozen solid, but are just becoming popular again.

  28. Your Blog is really Amazing !! So Many Beautiful Birds !! Well captured images and well dictated words !!

  29. Your Fieldfare has in interesting chainmail pattern on it's breast.
    Our doves here are very, very similar to yours.

    As always I so enjoy seeing your bird visitors.

  30. Wow what an impressive number of birds pictures there and with a lot of different atmospheres! Gorgeous post!

  31. holdingmoments

    Thank you very much Keith. I totally agree, the bad weather has brought a wealth of visitors to our gardens but it has been sad to see them so desperate to survive.
    The Fieldfare is a handsome bird (despite its aggressive ways) and a thrill for me to see it for the first time ever!


    Thank you, you are very kind. It has been difficult for the birds but hopefully the worst is over now, of course, having said that, February can be a bad month...


    Thank you very much. Our weather has improved now, the snow has gone...and so have the Fieldfares... :( but it was lovely to see them for a while. Your Fieldfare photos were lovely even though there was no snow! I'm so glad you liked the poems, I often wonder whether I should carry on including them!


    Thank you Rose, it is always a pleasure to have you here. I was thrilled to see the Fieldfares in the garden for the first time ever. The Pied Wagtail is a lovely little bird and quite shy, I found, it always visited late in the afternoon when most of the other birds had gone.
    You are very kind about the poetry, I often wonder whether to keep including it so it is nice to know it is appreciated :)
    We have had two gloriously sunny days with all traces of snow gone at last, I do hope your weather improves soon!

  32. sharon

    Thank you so much for your kind comments. I really didn't expect to see the Fieldfares, I have never ever seen them before, it was so exciting. You do see some great birds in your garden though :)


    Welcome and thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comment. A large hammer every so often helped!!! :)

    Dixxe's Doodles

    Thank you so much and I'm glad to say we have had glorious weather for the last two days with sunshine and relatively mild temperatures. I shall look up your White Throated Sparrow, I have noticed a lot of our birds have similarities with yours. The birds in my garden are still not happy with the fat treats so I think I need to try a different make. I'm so pleased you liked the Willa Cather poem and thank you, I feel better than I did and should find out more about the eye problem later this week.


    Thank you Ginny, I hope you are feeling well. It is very dull here today but we have had two beautiful days with sunshine and no snow! Stay strong :)

  33. Wow... what a lot of comments - have just discovered your blog great to see such wonderful photos of the birds - despite living in Northern Brittany myself - we too have had flocks of both Fieldfares and Redwings along with many others - today on my walk spotted both a couple of Gold Crests and also a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - and of course didn't have my camera - always the way!! Hope the weather continues to improve with you... still cold here :-) Miranda

  34. ...I loved all the photos of your Fieldfare. He is a very pretty bird--I like the coloring and markings, and the Pied Wagtail is always beautiful to me. I just love the photo where he has his tail fanned out! ...I really liked all the poems you selected today too! A lovely winter's day in your garden. Hope the apples continue to bring in the birds despite your lack of snow.

  35. Wilma

    Thank you very much. It has been a little milder here and the snow has all gone although some places have had more today. It is colder again here today but only rain so far. It is the first time for years we have experienced such bad weather and I had heard on the TV it was bad in the US too. I hope it improves for you soon.


    Welcome! How nice to see you here :) and thank you very much for your kind comments. Yes, it really was exciting to see a 'new' bird! I am well stocked up with bird food, I think they are eating better than we are at the moment, :) but we do have some respite from the very Wintry weather at the moment.


    Thank you Monty. I was pleased to see the Blackcaps back again this Winter and still hope to get a photo of the female.


    Thank you Denis, I am feeling a little 'wrung out' today after a hospital assessment prior to eye surgery, which turns out to be regular surgery and not laser as I was first told. I shall be glad when it is all over now!
    Trying to keep the birdbath free from ice was a nightmare and involved a husband with a big hammer :) I also put small containers down which promptly 'disappeared' under the snow!

  36. shirl

    Thank you very much, it is still a struggle to blog and unfortunately there is a steady deterioration in my sight. I learnt today that it will be 'ordinary' rather than laser surgery which was a bit of a shock but at least then things should be fine again. As you say the glare wasn't good.
    The snow certainly did bring a lot of desperate birds into the garden and it was a thrill to see them but I felt very sad knowing what a fight for survival they were having.
    We do have lots of birds nest in our garden but I have never actually put up nest boxes, I know it sounds silly but if a box was used and things went wrong I would feel responsible somehow... I'm daft aren't I ? :)
    I hope you have had some respite from the snow by now and wish you a happy rest of the week.


    Thank you, you are very kind :) The birds certainly have been eating me out of house and home lately, the poor things were so desperate! It was a real thrill to be visited by the Winter Thrushes for the first time.


    Thank you, yes it was lovely to see them, I had seen Redwings as a child but not since and never a Fieldfare. It is so much better without the snow although I believe some people have had some more today, I hope you aren't one of them.

    Estelle Kensdale

    Welcome! Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments. It was lovely to get the Fieldfares in the garden for the first time and the first time I had ever seen them anywhere! I'm just hoping to see some LTTs again soon, they seem to have deserted me this year!

    The Early Birder

    Hi Frank, thank you very much, I'm very flattered to receive your gold star :)


    Thank you very much, I was really pleased.


    Thank you Joe, yes it was brilliant although I don't think the regular Blackbirds were too impressed with them!
    Regarding lenses, I have a Sigma 150 - 500mm with image stabiliser lens which gives very good results although I haven't used it for a long time as I find it too heavy, of course if I ever got around to buying a tripod that wouldn't be such a problem.
    The lens I use the most is a Canon 55 - 250mm with image stabiliser, with that one I do generally have to crop very heavily though.


    Thank you Karen, I did think it was a shame that it spent all that energy when in fact there was plenty for all! Yes I like the Wagtails, mine seemed quite shy but very adept at avoiding the Fieldfare and not easily put off.


    Thank you , yes they are very handsome birds but in my garden, extremely aggressive, at least the one which visited on its own was.
    I too find the Wagtails to be quite shy but lovely to watch.
    I still have to wait a while before surgery which I now find won't be by laser after all and there is a definite ongoing deterioration...I shall be glad to get it done!


    Welcome! Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments.

  37. Thanks for your support on the tree issue Jan, i'll do my best for them!

  38. Midmarsh John

    Thank you very much John, I was very pleased :) It is pretty rare to see a Wagtail in my garden too, they only ever visit when there is snow on the ground. The Blackcap is only a Winter visitor but always a pleasure to see.

    Unseen Rajasthan

    Thank you very much Bharat, you are very kind :)

    Roses and Lilacs

    Thank you Marnie, the Fieldfare is a beautiful bird and yes it does have rather a chainmail look. I have noticed your Doves are similar to ours too.


    Thank you very much for your kind words, the snow certainly brought some interesting visitors into the garden.

  39. Miranda Bell

    Welcome! Thank you for visiting and for your comments. How lovely to live in Brittany!Yes it is so annoying not to have the camera when there is something interesting to photograph, I remember seeing Grey Wagtails posing beautifully when I had left mine at home, I felt so frustrated, we went back to the same spot the next day with the camera and of course, no sign of the Wagtails! You are lucky, I have never seen a Goldcrest and you saw two in one day! The snow has all gone now but it is a little chilly today.


    Thank you very much, yes a very handsome bird. Thank you for mentioning the poems, I'm never sure whether to keep including them so it is nice to know they are appreciated, Nature and poetry do seem to go together, I think. Now the snow has gone the Blackbirds have the apples to themselves again :)

    Warren Baker

    Thanks for dropping in again Warren. I know you will and I am behind you all the way :)

  40. You really do take the most beautiful pictures Jan! We have been doing are bit feeding the birds, I can’t keep up with them. We don’t seem to have as many different birds as you do. I could do with your knowledge on birds, if only you lived nearer!!!

    Love Lou xxx

  41. Another great collection of photographs and verse Jan.Glad to see you also have a Blackcap visitor.

  42. lou

    Thank you very much Lou, yes I think we would have fun if we lived closer, you could show me all your lovely craft work and give me some tips. I'm glad you are feeding the birds, they need all the help they can get during wintry weather, I hear it is going to be more wintry again next week!

    The Watcher

    Thank you very much. Yes I was pleased to get photos of the Blackcap although I was disappointed not to capture the female, she was too elusive. Such pretty little birds, but then I think that about all of them :)

  43. Excellent birds you have there..enjoying your blog!

  44. dAwN

    Thank you very much Dawn, it's always nice to see you here :)

  45. Hi Jan.
    Nice photo's of the winter Thrushes.I also like the shots of the male Blackcap.

  46. You have a great blog going here! You have taken some excellent photos of your birds... you have many varieties we do not have, here. (The starling perhaps is the exception. ha!)

  47. Ken Browne

    Thank you very much Ken, the snow certainly brought some interesting visitors into the garden!

    Shady Gardener

    Welcome! Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comments. I think it is always nice to see birds from other parts of the world but I suspect you may not always be too pleased to see 'our' Starlings over there as I'm guessing they can be just as rowdy as they are here :)

  48. Dear Jan,
    Once again I have enjoyed catching up with you. Thank you for a delightful post. My January has gotten away. We also had snow and bitterly cold nights. So hard on the birds. I was able to see some of the shy birds up close too. I loved seeing your feeder birds. I felt as if I was right there with you. The snow makes for a pretty background!
    Hope you are staying dry and warm.

  49. Q

    Thank you very much Sherry. The time seems to have gone so quickly lately for me too! Yes, we all seem to have had a share of very wintry weather lately, I hope your birds are surviving and that you, yourself, are managing to keep warm. We have no trace of snow now but have, of course, had plenty of rain!

  50. I expect your birds did find it difficult with all the snow and cold weather you had. Your pictures are wonderful.

  51. oldcrow61

    Thank you very much OC, they certainly did but at least all the snow has gone now although it is getting colder again!

  52. Hey Shy Song Bird ! Awaiting your new post !!

  53. What beautiful pictures of beautiful birds. Your goldfinch is very stunning. I guess I will have to travel to England for some birding. Thanks for sharing.

  54. 項鍊

    Thank you.

    Unseen Rajasthan

    Thank you Bharat, hope you enjoy it :)

    Bill S

    Welcome! Thank you for visiting and for your very kind comments.
    I know you have a Goldfinch too but ours is a little different and has the distinctive red on the head. It is interesting to see the differences in birds in other parts of the world.
    I do hope you visit again, you will be very welcome :)

  55. I love seeing your birds! When I first saw Fieldfare, I thought to myself... a speckled robin! ;-) They are both of the thrush family, so my reaction made sense.

    My photos may not be the quality of yours, but I took a few photos yesterday (fun!) that I'll try to share in the next few days. You'll like my black-capped chickadee. :-)

  56. Shady Gardener

    Thank you very much! The Fieldfare does have a similar stance to the Robin but is much larger, 10 inches (25 cm). Our (European) Robin is only 5 inches (13-14 cm) although I know your Robin is much larger.


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