Winter must be upon us judging by the flocks of Redwing and Fieldfares that have been arriving in the area over the last few days. They seem to coincide with the first serious frosts of the year so I guess that wherever they have come from got cold a little earlier than have we.
Resident Mistle Thrush numbers seem to be boosted by winter migrants from further North and Scandinavia and our own resident Song Thrushes become more obvious as they spend longer periods searching for worms and larvae in the colder, and sometimes frozen, ground.
No doubt other areas are just as fortunate but here in Hants/Dorset we are lucky in that certain parts of the New Forest attract all four of the above species in goodly numbers. They all seem a little twitchy where the human form is concerned but most seem happy to tolerate a parked car which can act as a readymade hide. If they’re feeding in roadside fields or verges I doubt they’ll let you just drive up. However, if you are able to watch their feeding patterns from a distance, you should be able to anticipate their movements. The Mistle and Song Thrushes don’t seem to flock up though you can often see half a dozen in reasonably close proximity to one another. These two species cover a substantial area of ground when feeding so if you keep back and watch the direction in which they seem to be working you can park a little further along and apply some of that patience we Wildlife Photographers are supposed to be endowed with. The Redwings and Fieldfares are often even easier to anticipate. They normally feed in flocks and work their way across a field in a succession of leap-frogging moves. Once you have sussed the direction you can park accordingly and wait for them to come to you. All four species seem happy to accept a vehicle if it is already there when they arrive. Don’t make the mistake of waving three feet of lens out of the window at them or even the more tolerant ones will give you a demonstration of what a bird flying away from you looks like. Keep back inside the vehicle and cover the window with some scrim netting.
The fifth of the Turdus species – the Ring Ouzel – is only seen here on migration, and then only fleetingly. It breeds from the upper Midlands to the North and is usually seen here in this area on our rocky promontories, such as Portland and Hengistbury Head, as it arrives and leaves our shores for its wintering grounds in Southern Europe and Iberia.
The ubiquitous Blackbird completes the Turdus set but becomes more obvious in winter as it seems to forsake the denser woodland for open spaces where it can be seen searching for worms and other insects and larvae on the short cropped grassy areas.
Mistle Thrush – Turdus viscivorus
Song Thrush – Turdus philomelos
Redwing – Turdus iliacus
Fieldfare – Turdus pilaris
Ring Ouzel – Turdus torquatus
Blackbird – Turdus merula