This Article is About
autumn and winter
close quarters
winter nights
Winter Thrushes Redwings & Fieldfares
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One of the birds that can really brighten up a dull January day is my favourite winter thrush the Redwing. It’s a bird I like the look of especially when seen at close quarters or through binoculars or better still a spotting scope.

There is something emotive about a Redwing, slightly smaller and more rakish and sure of itself than our native Song Thrush. It’s the pale cream striped head and heavily spotted under-body and a flashing chestnut red under-wing that is seen in flight that appeals me. A bit of a flash-harry of the thrush world perhaps.

Redwings are the harbingers of winter arriving with us in autumn to escape the harsher winters of Northern Europe and staying till early spring. I saw my first birds of the winter coming in at Thorpeness in October. Some were struggling across the North Sea and a few not making it falling prey to marauding gulls. One was so tired it landed on the sea four times before making land and rested motionless, exhausted on the shingle, drained. Its eyes fully closed and allowing me to approach it very closely. In contrast the next day I saw the first group of twenty birds on my local Mid Suffolk patch flying strongly south west. I have since seen them all winter in small numbers in the hedgerows, gardens and fields throughout Suffolk. They can sometimes be heard, but not seen migrating high overhead on autumn and winter nights calling their remarkably far-carrying ‘seez’ or ‘seeip’ calls.

They feed on a wide variety of invertebrates in winter and may often be seen on Holly and Hawthorn feeding on berries or foraging on the ground almost anywhere in loose flocks of anything from 10 to 200 plus birds. They sometimes venture into gardens and parks but are more often seen in open country and agricultural land. They are frequently accompanied and usually out-numbered by the other more powerful looking northern Scandinavian invader thrush the Fieldfare. A bird that actually resembles in my imagination a medieval Viking, with its striking breast of arrowhead chainmail like spots, slate grey hooded head and reddish -brown smock like back.

Both Redwings and Fieldfares will soon be gone making their way back across the North Sea to their breeding grounds in the forests and tundra of Northern Europe and Russia. They will be back in force next autumn.


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