I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Fieldfare. Seen well, they are a patchwork of colours and textures, with russety back, grey rump and head, white belly, and sharp-chevroned chest on a bed of soft orange. This snowy spell I've had the opportunity to get to know them that bit better!
I normally never see them where I live in Sussex, but this last week, arriving on the coat-tails of the Redwings, I started to hear them over the house, their 'chack-ack' call redolent of winter walks in the fields where I grew up in the Midlands. Indeed, Fieldfare means 'traveller of the fields' from the old Anglo-Saxon.
Then they began to get more desperate, or bold, or both, coming down into my trees (left) and then to cotoneaster berries that the local Blackbirds clearly felt were not suitable for consumption. But they made no attempt to come down for any of the fat or seed I put out.
I went for the 'cut up apple on the snow' option and, ta da!, down they came (right, on my frozen pond). At one time there were 15 in the garden, and a riot ensued as one particularly bolshie Fieldfare tried to lay claim to three pieces of apple at one time, attempting to shoo off Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings, cocking and fanning his black tail like a pumped up miniature Capercaillie.
Needless to say, he couldn't be in three places at once, and many a shy bird managed to nick a piece of apple while he wasn't watching, while he barely managed to take a break from his posturing to eat.
All in all, this past week has been quite a thrill, seeing all these unusual visitors finding such satisfaction in my garden. But of course what it really goes to show is how in weather like this, life is oh so tough for birds, and us garden-owners can actaully make a difference.
Are you taking advantage of the RSPB’s free wildlife gardening advice? Check out RSPB Homes for Wildlife here.
We live in an urban area of Rotherham with no farmland within a radius of 3 mile and then farmland is limited in comparison to the housing and industrial estates around. Yet we also had a couple of visits from the odd fieldfare [during the snow] but our friends a few roads away had more visiting their garden during the same period. We have lived in this area for over forty years and this is a first for us.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654