Birds: thrushes and fieldfares

Posted: Wednesday 20 January 2010
by Richard Jones

When I peered out later in the day, the apple tree was bending under the burden of several plump ... birds.

Fieldfare sitting on a bare winter branch, with a red berry in its mouth, image copyright RSPB ImagesSnow is not the best weather for finding insects, so I was not surprised, last week, when my brief wander up the garden found nothing. It didn’t help that I was under sustained attack from snowballing children at the time. 

But as my fellow bloggers have pointed out, snow does make birds all the more obvious. When I peered out later in the day, the apple tree was bending under the burden of several plump … birds. They were silhouetted against the morning light so not immediately identifiable. As ever, it was slight struggle to find my daughter’s binoculars in one of the kitchen drawers, and when I got them to my eyes, the tree was bare.  They looked a bit like thrushes, but they weren’t. Even I know a thrush when I see one. 

The mystery was solved a couple of days later when I watched a bird delicately pick bright red berries from an ornamental shrub down in Purley. I made a few notes: grey head, dark cheek patch, reddish brown wings, pale grey breast, brownish bib, white side flecks, pale rump, dark tail, thrush size. Ah! Fieldfare

I don’t remember when I last saw one of these — 35 years ago? I always associate them with large flocks settling in the grazing meadows of my uncle’s farm near Sittingbourne, Kent. As their name suggests, they are field birds. The RSPB website is on hand with the answer — they readily come into the suburbs to visit gardens when the weather is snowy. 

The white is gone from my garden now, and so too, apparently, are the fieldfares, gone back to the fields. But as I’ve been writing this, a long-tailed tit just bobbed into that same apple tree, and a fox just popped through the gap in the fence and trotted up the muddy lawn. I’ve seen the first insect too — a harlequin ladybird. Normal service has been resumed.

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Gardeners' World Web User 20/01/2010 at 18:07

This is more exactly my experience too, here in North Derbyshire. A bird I had never seen before, but very handsome. A quick scrabble for the binoculars -no its not a thrush- scan through the bird book, couldn't find it at first sweep. One phone call to my mother in Norfolk who might know. She did because she'd just been watching a news item about a huge influx of Fieldfares from Sweden.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2010 at 14:18

I was puzzling last week over what looked like a flock of a couple of dozen fat thrushes in Dulwich (SE London), but I don't remember ever seeing thrushes flock. Couldn't get a good look as they were against the glare of sun & snow, but you may have solved the mystery.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2010 at 17:41

We to were visited by the 'Fieldfares', lots of them in our car park(Liskeard -Cornwall) to feast on the berries. Then the sat quite happily in the tree over hanging our car, which they very kindly decorated with lovely purple coloured p.. They were great to watch though.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2010 at 19:42

We have had a flock of fieldfres in our garden for the first time thid year they visited daily for just over week eating the holly berries. None this week though

Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2010 at 21:38

I too had these surprise visitors to my garden when it was snowy. I watched them for some time, trying to decide if they were thrushs. I live 3 miles from the sea in hampshire.

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