Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fieldfares in the Garden

After the very mild weather we have experienced in much of the UK for most of the Winter I suspect the recent severe frosts, ice and snow were quite a shock to the system for many of us. The bonus though, since the snowfall, has been that the Winter Thrushes have been dropping into many of our gardens in search of sustenance. Apparently, compared with the week which ended with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on the 28th and 29th of January, there have been over twice as many Redwings and over five times as many Fieldfares seen in gardens! Luckily, my garden has been one of them :)


Even though the cold snap had not yet descended on us, I recorded a Redwing in the garden on bird count day which was very pleasing on what was otherwise a very poor day, bird wise, with many of my regular daily visitors deciding to play truant and keep their names off the list this year. My (disappointing) tally of the most birds seen at one time during one designated hour was as follows:

Greenfinch 9; Collared Dove 6; Wood Pigeon 4; Chaffinch 3; Goldfinch 2; House Sparrow 2; Feral Pigeon 1; Blue Tit 1; Robin 1; Blackbird 1; Jackdaw 1; Redwing 1.

Last year on bird count day, in colder weather, I recorded Blackcap, Redwing and Brambling in addition to the regulars. I was surprised not to record any Great Tits or Coal Tits on this year's list, they are usually regular, daily visitors and of course the Long-tailed Tits only showed up a few days after the count!

Anyway, back to the Winter Thrushes in my garden, and although I have seen Redwings feeding on Cotoneaster berries several times I unfortunately failed to get photos. It has been Fieldfares who have been boldest and unable to resist the apple halves I have been putting out since the Wintry weather tightened its grip. I should add that all of the photos in this post were taken from indoors, through glass and some of them (they were taken over two days) were in poor light.

One Fieldfare in particular was fiercely defensive of the apples and every time another one approached any of the halves, it would see it off very aggressively! The Blackbirds especially suffered its aggression and couldn't get even a morsel. There was quite a lot of fruit eaten in a short time!

Look at that tongue!

It is a sad fact that after their overnight flight from Scandinavia some of these lovely migrants are hijacked, just as they are approaching our shores, by Great Black-backed Gulls seeking an easy meal. The gulls pounce on the tired birds and force them into the water where exhaustion sadly overcomes them. However, for many the journey is successful and they will spend the Winter here enjoying the fruits of our countryside and gardens.

'He sits in winter's sleet, and the snow is round his feet, 
But he cares not for the cold;
For his little cheerful heart thinks the snow as fair a part
As the summer's green and gold.'
(From a collection, edited by
James Manning Sherwood)

Towards dusk Fieldfares will flock together and settle for the night, often in a tall hedge all facing the same direction... for some reason, to me, that conjures up visions of lots of bottles stacked in a wine rack! I do have a weird and wonderful imagination sometimes, well maybe more weird than wonderful ;-)

Just as it defended its food in my garden, the Fieldfare will fiercely defend it's nest in the breeding season in its summer quarters, often by bombarding egg seeking marauders with faeces! ;-)


'We've taken quarters here till spring-
'Till then we'll stay;
But, soon as birds begin to sing,
We'll fly away!'
(Thomas Fisher)

The snow has all gone here now and today has been much milder but it was lovely, during the recent harsh weather, to get a closer look at the Winter Thrushes in my garden.

Until next time... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.

Monday, 6 February 2012

A Walk with Winter Thrushes

When I said my next post would be soon, I certainly didn't mean more than two weeks later! I was hoping to get some better photos but at this time of year and with the ever present problem of a fairly short lens it really isn't possible. As I have mentioned before I do have a longer lens but it is just too heavy to take out and about and would necessitate a tripod but I prefer the versatility of hand held photography. Anyway, I should remind myself that this was never intended to be a photography blog but a Nature blog. For me, Nature and all the wonders she has to offer comes first. So with that in mind here are a few photos taken recently on a very cold walk on 'my patch'.

It really was bitingly cold and one could be forgiven for thinking that the following two photos show a sprinkling of snow but it is actually a very heavy frost which had lasted all day.

'Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing'.
(Camille Pissarro)

There were lots of birds busily stocking up with food to help sustain them through what was to be another very cold night and I was entertained for a while by the acrobatics of a small flock of Long-tailed Tits flitting from branch to branch and tree to tree but on this occasion I was unable to get a decent photograph of their antics.

It can, perhaps, be difficult to think of much to be joyful about in the Winter in this country but one of the undoubted joys for a Nature lover is the arrival of the Winter Thrushes. Appropriately, given their name, the field adjacent to where I was walking was alive with Fieldfares foraging amongst the grass. It was a very large flock but too far away to get a photo which would do them any justice. However, there were also plenty searching the trees for berries.


'Flocking fieldfares, speckled like the thrush
Picking the red haw from the sweeping bush
That come and go on winter's chilling wing,
And seem to share no sympathy with Spring.'
(John Clare)

Although not in such large numbers as the Fieldfares there were also some Redwings in the trees.


They are principally migrants to the UK but it has been known, since the first nest was found there in 1932, that Redwings have bred in varying numbers in the highlands of Scotland. Being night time migrants, we may hear their 'tseep' overhead on a dark, still night as they migrate in the Autumn or early Winter.

The Bullfinches were also very much in evidence on my walk but oddly, I didn't see any males, only the less vibrantly coloured females.


The British ornithologist Robert Mudie (1777–1842) said of this delightful little bird,

'In shape it is the most compact and neat, and expressive of energy and strength of all our little birds. The outline of its head and bill is as fine as that of the most handsome of the hawks; but the bright black eye has a good deal of the prying expression of that of the magpie. The bill is, with the exception of that of the eagles and hawks, made stronger in proportion than the bill of any other British bird. The attitudes and motions of the bird, while picking buds or berries, are also very elegant'

As some readers may remember I often see Yellowhammers in this location and this time was no exception.


'Y was a young Yellowhammer,
Who raised a ridiculous clamor;
And he chattered until
An owl said, "Keep still!
I'm trying to study my grammar.'
(Caroline Wells)

This little Robin's red breast was the only touch of colour in its rather sepia looking surroundings! You can see what I mean much better if you click on the photo.


Finally, a big thank you to everyone for the very warm welcome back you gave me on my previous post after my lengthy absence from blogland. It was so kind of you and much appreciated.

Until the next time... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.