Watching Nature – Winter Thrushes

Of the 5 thrushes that can be found in the UK, two can be seen only in the winter months. These birds travel south from Scandinavia and Iceland to avoid the bad weather and search for food in our warmer climate. The smaller one is the Redwing. The larger of the two is a Fieldfare. Slightly bigger than our native Mistle Thrush it can be observed in groups of from 10 up to several hundred or more.

Look for this colourful thrush at the top of large leafless trees around the estate, slate-grey head and rump with a chestnut coloured back and wings and always facing into the wind. The name is derived from their being seen most commonly searching for worms on rough open grassland or fields (the traveller over the fields). Fallen apples, berries and fruit are readily eaten along with snails, hawthorn, rose hips and rowan. They arrive in October
and return to their breeding grounds in the spring.

Redwing– The other thrush is perhaps a little more common but is often overlooked.  The Redwing is slightly smaller than our native song thrush and perhaps much more attractive with its red flanks and cream eyestripe.

They arrive from Northern Europe and Iceland in their tens of thousands, a classic night time migrant that sometimes comes to grief in the dark by striking lighthouses and then dying in their hundreds.

These two species will often occur together in nomadic winter flocks as they both search for the same food supply. Look out for them in your garden or do what I do, sit on the bench by the Dukes River and see them feeding on the ivy overhanging the water.