Tuesday, 23 October 2012

'Fare and 'Wing

October is a great month in the garden: the grass growth is finally slowing down and there's time to admire autumn colour: especially the reds and yellows of autumn leaves, as the lack of chlorophyll production withdraws green pigments from leaves.  The passage of birds in this month is legend: replace warblers with wildfowl and Swallows with Scandinavian thrushes. 

Japenese Anemones and Dogwood (c. OOS)

 It's quite subtle at first, but confirmation, for me, of the change from summer to autumn and winter seasons is the lovely soft call 'tseep - tseep' of migrating Redwings. This occurs typically in mid October, with birds arriving from Scandinavia or Iceland, usually under cover of darkness in misty, still weather, lifted from distant northern parts by high pressure and a following wind. You are as likely to witness this chorus of 'contact calls' from migrating Redwings in urban and suburban locations as in the countryside. Fieldfares are usually in the second round of migrants, their harsh 'chack-chack' calls are first heard a week or two behind the Redwings.

Redwing on Pyracantha ( c. Shay Connolly)

We don't quite celebrate this arrival as we would the first Swallows, Cuckoo or Chiff Chaff: maybe we feel that the glass is half empty as distinct from half full, in spring. Never mind, for the 'winter thrushes' Ireland and western Europe is a safe haven.. Generally unfrozen ground, all the better to chase down insect prey, and the welcome aperitif of a medley of ripe red berries
on arrival, are among the delights on offer for these hardy migrants.  

 Fieldfares and Redwings don't really appear in gardens until conditions get really foul: they prefer to forage our fields and hedgerows as long as conditions allow for successful feeding in farmland.. A mid winter series of extended frosts and snow will see further immigration from mainland Europe and a sudden influx to our gardens: ornamental garden berries may well be available and less than edible class Apples (for humans) are a real treat for a hungry migrating thrush.. but that's all a few months away yet, hopefully!

Fieldfare (c. Shay Connolly)

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