Jen and I went for a walk around the lanes this afternoon, and I finally saw some fieldfares. I was beginning to think I might go an entire winter without seeing any! They had congregated in some silver birch with some redwings and starlings:
I don't know why, but I'm quite pleased with this minimalist second shot:
On my way to the garage to saw wood yesterday afternoon, I was delighted to see a redwing in my neighbour's oak tree. Apart from the pair I saw back in November, and one possible sighting near the bird feeder last week, I haven't seen any redwings in our garden this winter. Which is very unusual.
Redwings are always smaller than I remember, and have a slightly angular look to them somehow. I think it might be due to their cream-coloured eye-brows (or supercilia, to give them their proper name).
After a minute or so, I turned towards the garage. Whereupon a flock of about 50 redwings took off from our sycamore and flew away across the fields. How had I missed those?
Fifteen minutes later, as I was sawing wood, I heard rooks and jackdaws making a commotion outside. They were mobbing a buzzard. It flew low over the garden, pursued by its tormentors. It was only the second buzzard I've ever seen from our garden in the 11 years I've lived here. It isn't the crows that keeps them away. Buzzards are simply not tolerated by humans in grouse- and sheep-country, even though killing them is illegal.
After I'd finished sawing, I returned to my study to write. Gazing out the window for inspiration, I found myself eye-to-eye with yet another redwing perched in our fir tree. Of course, by the time I'd got my camera out, it had flown off. But I did manage to photograph three in the neighbour's oak tree.
I'm relieved to see some redwings at last. But I haven't seen any fieldfares this winter, which is very unusual around here.
First update of 2012. What can I say? I've been busy.
January began with snowdrops. I spotted my first, under the smaller of our two sycamores on 5th—the earliest snowdrop in our garden ever, I believe. Two days later, and it was decapitated in a storm. But it was a welcome reminder that winters don't go on forever.
I have taken several walks on the moor. Ice and mud, mainly—and a few stalwart grouse. I also saw a flock of 48 fieldfares. (Yes, I counted them: sad, I know.)
I had a truly astonishing walk up on the moor on 11th February. The area had been hit by frozen ice, so every heather twiglet and blade of grass had been sheathed in ice. It was so cold that the grouse, which I could hear nearby, had taken to hiding instead of flying away—presumably to save energy. They couldn't have been getting much food, with all the heather frozen.
At home, we had our first siskin in the garden. Well, probably not our first—but certainly the first I recognised as a siskin! And we have had a small number of fieldfares and redwings in the front field, although those seem to have returned to Scandinavia now.
Then, this Tuesday, I was in the kitchen making a brew, when there was a tremendous crash against the window next to the bird-feeder. A sparrowhawk, I guessed. I ran over to the window, but there was no sign of anything, save for a few small feathers stuck to the window. But the blackbirds in the garden were going ballistic: they had clearly seen what had happened. I went back upstairs to work, but, 45 minutes later, I realised that the blackbirds were still going ballistic. I went to investigate, and found a little owl sitting in the thorn tree, getting mobbed by chaffinches. I managed to fire off a single, poorly exposed photo before it flew off.
I later read that little owls do indeed eat small birds. They also seem to have stolen a trick from sparrowhawks, and taken to ambushing small birds at feeders.
There are definite signs that spring is on the way. Our garden robin has taken to singing very vocally before sunrise, and is starting to get a bit bolshy. So I'm hoping I should be able to start giving more regular updates in this journal in the near future.