In winters past I would see so many winter thrushes that I have become a bit blase about their presence, it's not until you start to notice their absence that you begin to appreciate them, and thats how its been for me this winter.
Since their arrival to our shores from their Scandinavian homelands back in October last year, our paths have not crossed. and only as recently as a few days ago, have I encounter my first large flock of Fieldfares, my attention drawn by their distinctive calls as they flew high over my local patch at Ashenbank Woods.
Probably more common up north in the early part of winter, they gradually spread southwards before they leave us in spring. possibly explaining why I am seeing them now, together with the cold weather we have been experiencing of late.
" The Traveller through the Fields " the Olde Anglo-Saxon meaning for the Feldefare or Fieldfare as we know it, appears very apt for this nomadic bird.
Passing through some old sheep pasture at Capel Fleet in the car, there they were, a huge flock of hundred or so Fieldfare, hunting for worms I should imagine, wouldn't have thought there would be any other invertebrates around to feed on at this time of year.
I pulled up alongside the field, unfortunately disturbing the birds as I did so, (rubbish fieldcraft) apparently when foraging on the ground, the flock works its way upwind, individual birds often pausing to stand upright and gaze around before resuming feeding, when alarmed they fly off down wind and the flock reforms, before the whole process starts again.
When seen in a tree or hedge you will probably notice that they all face the same direction into the wind.
Luckily for me these did not fly to a hedge or tree, but returned to the field.
For a change I was in the right position, the birds gradually made their way back to where I was waiting, allowing me to get some images.
The male and female are very similar in appearance, my field guide says that the male is slightly larger, and the female's plumage not so well defined, to be honest, I could not distinguish one from the other.
Another interesting fact that I did not realise, unusually for Thrushes the Fieldfare is quite a social bird and nests in loose colonies back on their breeding grounds, they can also be quite defensive of their nest sites, and similar to Terns bombard intruders with their faeces,
Some snow on the ground would have been nice, to give a wintery impression , but then I suppose they might not have been feeding in the short grass, and I wouldn't have seen them.
No Redwings with this flock.
Hope our paths cross again before they leave in spring.