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January 7th- redwings, fieldfares and woodcock

The cold has brought redwings and fieldfares into the village in greater numbers. I have put windfall apples down and the blackbirds have been challenged by a larger member their family for the first time this winter; fieldfares have no problem seeing them off. One beautifully marked bird was a regular visitor today. It was a luxury to use my studio as a warm hide from which to make these studies. A redwing appeared for a while but was too shy to descend to the lawn. Its feathers were extremely fluffed up , the temperature at the time still -3C. These winter thrush species are not unexpected in cold weather, but they always add a touch of Scandinavian wildness to the garden; I know that as soon as there is a hint of a thaw they will be gone again, back out into the fields to feed on invertebrates so I make the most of their presence.   

In the second half of the gloaming I can sit in my studio and see woodcock fly between the woods to the south and the damp fields to the north of the garden. They fly very fast twisting as they go on arched wings. When they are low I can clearly hear the air moving over their stiff flight feathers. I would love to be able to see them feeding in the flooded fields at night. In the winter of 2010/11 and living in Ampleforth at the time, we were very fortunate to be able see a woodcock feeding area from our house, a spring which remained unfrozen in severe frost. I remember several nights when the moonlight was so bright I could comfortably watch them feeding in the snow. One evening a little owl made an attempt at catching one, ambitious to say the least, but also a measure of how hungry animals were in that very cold December. Bobbing woodcock feeding on moonlit snow with Orion sailing majestically above, still amongst my most memorable birding experiences.

 

Woodcock in January gloaming.
Extremely fluffed up redwing and fieldfare in garden.

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