Friday, 25 January 2013

Migrant Thrushes

Usually, by this time of the year, migrant thrushes, mainly, but not exclusively, from Scandinavia, will have visited our area in large - and sometimes huge - numbers. True, there have been a few Fieldfares about, but in rather small groups; as for Redwings, I have only seen singletons. I suspect that the flocks have moved on, our snow-covered landscape having little to offer. (As for resident thrushes, the local park has a couple of pairs of Mistle Thrushes but, worryingly, Song Thrushes seem to be absent.)

Although both Fieldfares and Redwings will take earthworms and other invertebrates, berries form a major part of their diet, yet hawthorn and other berry-bearing bushes have now been stripped of their fruit. This last autumn was particularly poor for sloes (and garden plums too) so another food source is absent. Birds leave sloes - the fruit of the Blackthorn - untouched until the fruit has become soft and semi-decayed; in this "bletted" state they become acceptable.

So this "Viking Invasion", as Trevor Hold called it, has temporarily stalled - but, like the original Vikings, they'll be back. Trevor penned a short, rather attractive poem on the subject:

                  The riming frost brings Viking
                  invaders from across the sea.
                  The village is besieged 
                  by cohorts of redwings.
                  Battalions of fieldfares.

                  They lurk till dawn in bushes
                  for berries to unfreeze,
                  then strip October's redness down
                  To bare brown boughs,
                  leaving behind mementoes of their pillage
                  like stains of purple blood.

                      "Viking Invasion" from "Chasing the Moon"

As I write it seems that, if our birds can hang on for another twenty four hours, the snow will be on the retreat and the good times will return - and perhaps the thrushes too.

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