We're always keeping an eye on birdlife in our suburban garden. Over the years, we have seen hedge sparrows, wrens, robins, blue tits, coal tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, collared doves, wood pigeons, blackbirds, rooks, magpies, jays, thrushes, starlings, one menacing sparrow hawk and of course returning swallows that herald summer with their breathtaking aerial displays. Surprisingly, we have never seen even a solitary seagull on our little piece of planet Earth, nor, rather less surprisingly, have we seen a wild emu, a golden eagle or a vulture.
A couple of weeks ago, Lady Pudding and I noticed a new bird perching in our old apple trees. He or she was accompanied by a dozen friends who, to our discerning gaze, looked exactly the same. A little research proved they were fieldfares. Apparently, they emigrate to Britain each winter from more northerly climes - Scandinavia, Russia. During an average winter there will be an estimated 720,000 fieldfares in the English countryside - mostly in East Anglia and Lincolnshire but they have been known to winter as far away as Cornwall, Devon and the Republic of Ireland. I had never seen them before in our garden. They have stuck around for a while now and sometimes can be seen pecking at the windfall apples I deliberately left lying on the ground beneath our craggy apple trees.
They are omniverous and sociable birds, preferring the comfort and security that belonging to small flocks provides.
Human activities have adversely affected fieldfare numbers over the years but they are not an endangered species. I marvel at their navigational skills and their ability to survive in changed environments. Not perhaps as impressive as the godwit - which Katherine has occasionally blogged about at "The Last Visible Dog"- but nevertheless a tenacious creature which annually and amazingly demonstrates the incredible survival tactics it has inherited from its ancestors - imprinted in its very DNA.
If any fieldfares are reading this post, may I say thank you for choosing our garden this mid-wintertime. You will always be welcome here and if there is anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable - please advise.