TThe first north-easterlies brought down fieldfares, bringing snow on their wings and sharpening their beaks in frost and water. Their redwing cousins swam into Britain all through autumn, but fieldfares, which are true winter thrushes that should be chilled, can be found in Britain. A fellow birder in Lancashire sent me an email at the tail end November. He replied redwings yes, but fieldfares no. I missed their calls, the endearing rattles that reminds me of customers passing by a faulty turnstile.
They are now back, swept in by the cold winds. chack-a-chackThey bounce across the field in a small, 50-strong flock, choreographing their movements into the rowan’s topmost branches. They stand silently against the sky and adopt a similar stance, pointing due North, sticking all over the tree like Christmas baubles. They are now motionless and mute, and they barely speak when the fieldfares perch on their heads as if waiting for instruction.
The first months of the year were filled with fieldfares. They were an infectious antidote against lockdown. One morning they hedge-hopped down my lane shouting this! I ran to keep up with their exuberant cries. Running with fieldfares Silly man.
They are now shaken from the rowan by a soundless exhortation. It is like a fist exploding into a palm. The birds then fan out northwards along a broad front. One bird quickly breaks free from the splintering flock and takes a broad arc to the east, before banking around to the south.
I see it make a single path through my path, a high-flyer with the typical fieldfare tilt towards sunlight. The whole flock that left seems to vote in midair. One, two or four birds will suddenly leap off, causing the whole group to bend over and coalesce behind them in an unusually tight formation. They are pulled into the slipstream by the breakaway bird, and the flock tilts to the right. Westward ho!