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OBVIOUS BIRDS #77: Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

By alicebg, Sep 14 2017 07:27PM

With autumn fast upon us (and boy, has it checked in early), thoughts turn to the great influx of winter migrants that makes the UK such prime birdwatching territory, even in the coldest months. At the head of the vanguard sits the Fieldfare, a spectacular bird that is routinely underrated and frequently overlooked.

The Fieldfare is just one of Britain's many species of Thrush, but it is one of the larger ones and its striking colouration of mottled brick red and grey makes it easily recognisable. However, one reason this bird is often overlooked is its habit of forming mixed flocks with another winter visitor, the genuinely spectacular Redwing. Such was the case a few years ago when - with a lot of time on my hands - I was patrolling my local marsh one winter's morning, and came across a flock of what I thought was 20+ Redwings, but turned out to be mostly composed of Fieldfares. At the time i was disappointed (Redwings are rare in my neck of the woods), but later realised i was being unfair - Fieldfares are just as impressive.

True to their name, Fieldfares are symbolic of open farmland, but they can improvise. For several years one defended a tiny patch of green in a housing estate not far from where I live - it barely constituted pasture, but evidently it was enough.

One slightly worrying aspect is that I have not seen a fieldfare locally for a couple of years. In part, this is no doubt due to my abbreviated birdwatching habits (I simply don't get the time these days), but i suspect there's more to it than that. Fieldfares were once so familiar to me that their absence is more noticeable than their presence - hopefully it's just a blip, but it makes me more determined to keep my eyes peeled through the coming winter.

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