Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Redwings & Fieldfares, Upton Warren


Bang on schedule, these winter thrushes are back. Last year I picked them up a day earlier; but what's a day between reuniting friends? The redwings are already numerous, the fieldfares less so. We saw only one small flock. Skylarks too were on the move. They're not an obvious migrant, being a native breeder, but large numbers fly down from their upland breeding areas and in from the north. Whether this means just Scotland or northern Europe, I don't know.

The fieldfares are an especial thrill with their bold patterns and chattering calls. They also have the coolest nest defence mechanism. Basically, they fly above predators and “shit on the bastards below”. Remember that from football songs of yore?

The two thrushes pushed me closer to my goal of 600 species for the year, as I predicted the winter birds would. The list stands at 578 with a trip to Scotland in the offing at the end of the month. Whooper swan, pink-footed goose, velvet scoter and turnstone should be easy, with maybe red-throated diver, purple sandpiper, crested tit, Scottish crossbill and twite depending on where I go. Locally I could still expect Bewick’s swan, grey partridge, Mediterranean gull, little owl, brambling and that darn bittern, reported on BirdForum, which didn't show again today. I’m also missing barn owl, lesser spotted woodpecker, tree sparrow and corn bunting, but Lord knows whither they've retreated.

What's that? 19 off the top of my head. It sounds easy but, like many birders, I over-estimate. The game is much harder than that.

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