Jud Goodwin contacted me around January 26 to say, “The fieldfare and the mistle thrush came down to the snowy garden this morning and fed on the apples that we leave out for the blackbirds, or any other bird that might like them. We had a male blackcap trying for the apples last week but the blackbirds saw him off.” A few years back blackcaps used to be reported far more frequently than recently. The birds we see in winter are considered to be different from those which breed here. The winter birds are believed to be escaping the Arctic conditions of north east Europe.
Someone else to be visited by a mistle thrush is Shirley Dunwell, “I saw, for the very first time in our garden, a mistle thrush at 4.30pm in fading daylight. It came for some cotoneaster berries and then spent a few minutes perched high in our berberis tree and it happened on January 28, a Big Garden Birdwatch day.” Shirley rightly says that mistle thrush numbers are a worry. The BTO has them as an amber species of conservation concern in the UK because of recent breeding population decline. The mistle thrush is one of our earliest breeders (eggs are often laid in February). Shirley also tells me that a national newspaper has reported a thrush singing before Christmas, have you heard any calling yet?
Tessa Mobbs writes, “A couple of weeks ago my husband Stephen sent you a photo of a redwing which had been attracted to our garden in Felliscliffe during the cold weather by the sight of suet and old apples on the bird table. We noticed that although the redwings were interested, they weren’t sufficiently hungry to actually come onto the table. With the recent snowfall, the apples have attracted a mistle thrush (see attached photo) to the table. The RSPB recently reported that mistle thrushes are disappearing from UK gardens. We had not seen one for over a year. Clearly they are still around but only coming into gardens when food is difficult to find.”
In keeping with spring sightings, Roger Newman writes, “I have not seen a song thrush in my garden on Ethelburgas for a few years now. On Saturday last I was delighted to see not one but two song thrushes in my willow tree and on the lawn. They stayed for a good five minutes but did not get near enough for a good photo.” Great news and perhaps Roger has a breeding pair. I think song thrush breed early so you never know. Apparently early settlers introduced the song thrush to New Zealand and they are now their commonest breeding bird.
Morag Ross was “very pleased that we have a pair of mistle thrushes coming regularly to feed from the two feeders on our conservatory windows. Although we see them quite often in the garden I am surprised at such shy birds coming to feed from a feeder which is literally inches from where we sit. They join the more regular blackbirds, robins, blue tits, greenfinches and chaffinches which are also not the slightest bit bothered about us sitting reading. The power of suet pellets!”
New Website and Sightings Page
Malcolm Jones says, “I was very interested to read in your recent column about mature trees and their impact on wildlife. Many people now plant bushes that are known to attract birds to their berries but migrant thrushes and waxwings appear to like tall trees to collect in before making forays down to feed. I attach a photo of a redwing that was feeding on a large holly tree. Two of these birds occasionally flew down to feed on the fallen berries - the blackbirds had been clearing the tree of berries. These sightings were near Harlow Hill, Harrogate. Harrogate Naturalists Society has re-launched its website (www.hdns.org.uk) and has started a Sightings page. This has shown the difficulty of catching sight of the elusive waxwing flock.” I always think native trees are best and a couple of my favourites are mountain ash and holly.
An interesting message, for this time of year, from DM Dimmack, “In bygone days when summers were summers, I worked at Penny Pot, in their gardens. I was watering the plants one day, when I saw a hummingbird hawkmoth nearby. It was probing the flowers, and seemed to have four wings. I have only just found out what it was.” Maybe, just maybe, we will get a summer again this year, mass finger crossing please.
Jud Goodwin writes, “A very snowy day yesterday (February 13) so decided to make sure the feeders were full and then sat back and waited to see what came down. The redpolls came just before the snow started.”Some interesting birds locally, reported by Paul Irving, include that at least one of the long-tailed ducks is still at Gouthwaite Reservoir along with a winter plumaged slavonian grebe and a “sinensis” cormorant. Please note that a continental “sinensis” cormorant (P.c.sinensis) is a different sub species from the more usual(?) P.c.carbo. The Please ensure that all photos are high resolution, at least 400kb! Make the subject for all emails FAO Outdoor Column, Thanks!
differences are subtle so for an expert interpretation use the internet, please