16 January 2011


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.


  1. They really are pretty. Wonder what changing environmental or societal conditions brought them to your fields and trees this year and not in the past? Interesting.

  2. yes maybe the bad winter has pushed them into shefield subirbs for food
    I hope you shared your weetabix with them!

  3. Not being a real "birder," I've never before heard of a fieldfare, much less seen one. Thanks for the information and photos.

  4. Because of our climate we don't really experience birds migrating to warmer climes. The same ones just hang around here all the time. I think they are Australia's best asset - we have so many different birds and they are very plentiful. They can be very colourful too. Some have lovely voices , some very unusual and some downright roudy and screechy!
    PS. Thanks for your good wishes. The city is trying to open for business today after tens of thousands of helpers turned out to help with the cleanup yesterday.

  5. I rarely respond when blogposts are avian;
    I much prefer blogposts George Bernard Shavian.

  6. MOUNTAINOUS WOMAN I wish I knew the answer to your question.
    JOHN GRAY I don't eat Weetabix mate! I eat Shredded Wheat and always have three!
    PAT ARK I very much doubt that you get fieldfares in the USA but my ornithological knowledge is not much better than yours.
    HELEN At least a lot of birds could fly away from the floods whilst mammals and crawling insect populations must have been devastated.
    RHYMES WITH ORANGE I know little about George Bernard Shaw apart from this - He was born in Dublin, where he grew up in something close to genteel poverty. "I am a typical Irishman; my family came from Yorkshire," Shaw once said. His father, George Carr Shaw, was in the wholesale grain trade. Lucinda Elisabeth (Gurly) Shaw, his mother, was the daughter of an impoverished landowner. She was 16-years younger than her husband. George Carr was a drunkard – his example prompted his son to become a teetotaller. When he died in 1885, his children and wife did not attend his funeral. Young Shaw and his two sisters were brought up mostly by servants. Shaw's mother eventually left the family home to teach music, singing, in London. When she died in 1913, Shaw confessed to Mrs. Patrick Campbell: "I must write to you about it, because there is no one else who didn't hate her mother, and even who doesn't hate her children."

    In 1866 the family moved to a better neighborhood. Shaw went to the Wesleyan Connexional School, then moved to a private school near Dalkey, and from there to Dublin's Central Model School. Shaw finished his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. At the age of 15, he started to work as a junior clerk. In 1876 he went to London, joining his sister and mother. Shaw did not return to Ireland for nearly thirty years.

  7. I have read that fieldfares rarely venture into gardens but maybe the severe weather conditions this winter have meant that they needed to look further afield for their food. I have seen them in our valley but not in the garden.

  8. Have you got a good optician? Thought not, because you've missed seeing us Fieldfares in your garden for years. We like especially to arrive at the point one day before you were going to pick your berry-laden holly then we land on it in HUGE numbers and stuff ourselves silly, spilling more berries on the floor than we cram into our little tummies. Our take-off from that feast has to be seen to be believed, we are like a flight of Princess Flying Boats circa 1945 which are over-loaded to the gunwales. Don't you think we're flash little buggers too, with our cheeky red bits. Anyway, get yourself a good optician and keep your (spectacled) eyes on us next December.
    Signed, Iva Speckled-Beak.

  9. JENNYTA In seeking out birdwatchers' websites, I notice that various other urban dwellers have noticed fieldfares this year. They do seem keen on windgall apples so I am glad I left many on the ground specifically for our avian friends.
    EROGENOUS ZONES How did you know we have holly bushes up the garden? Have you been spying on us? Perhaps you're really Neville the neighbourhood peeping tom with thick glasses and a dirty gaberdine raincoat? I wouldn't be at all surprised.

  10. "If any fieldfares are reading this post"

    Please Sir! Sir! Mr Pudding - surely fieldfares don't read blogs... they are much too busy keeping up with all that Twitter!


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