Our northern invaders are soon going home

18 Feb

Many birds perform incredible migrations each spring and autumn and in Sherston our population undergoes significant changes. This autumn we saw significant migrations of our winter visitors from Scandinavia such as Fieldfares, Redwings, Long Tailed Tits, Snipe and Knot.

This winter there seems (a subjective measure) to be lots of Fieldfares and Long Tailed Tits with fewer Redwings.

If you are out for a walk almost anywhere nearby the village you are very likely to see Fieldfares at the moment. They look quite like a Song Thrush and hang around in small flocks. The gray head is quite distinctive – see photo below

If you can get reasonably close, which isn’t easy as they are quite flighty, you will see they have  a plain brown back, white  under wings, and grey rump and rear head. The breast has a reddish wash, and the rest of the underparts are White. The breast and flanks are heavily spotted and the sexes are similar. They are often in the company of Red Wings feed on mostly berries in the winter although fallen apples are very welcome:

Feeding in an apple orchard at Brook End

Fieldfares and Redwings at lunch

The name Fieldfare dates back to at least the eleventh century. The angle-saxon word feldefare perhaps meant traveller through the fields. Alternatively, it may be derived from Old English fealu fearh, literally grey piglet.

If you want to see them don’t hang around – they will back off to Scandinavia in the next 3 – 4 weeks!

It’s estimated that some 750,000 visit Britain each winter which brings me onto another important point. What proportion of our birds are resident all year round?

If you consider that the Fieldfares, Redwings, most of the Long Tail Tits, many of the finches and Blackbirds are visitors it must make up a significant percentage.

In a highly unscientific analysis while walking along the Cliff today I estimated that some 25% of the birds were winter migrants. It will be interesting to see what this may be in the summer when we have a very different set of migrants in the village from southern Europe and Africa.

One final thought… If you see a flock of Long-tailed Tits (there are usually 10 – 20) just stop and be very quiet. The chatter amongst the flock as they keep in touch when the flit from tree to bush is quite something – one of my pub theories is that are the inspiration for faeries!! More pub theories to follow…..


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