We had planned to blog on a completely different subject but…. As the reserve seems to have been taken over by fieldfares just now, we’ve bowed to the inevitable and featured them in the starring role!
Lots of visitors are coming into the visitor centre right now and asking “ what are the big flocks of noisy birds I keep seeing? Look a bit like thrushes”. That’ll be the fieldfares and “big noisy flock” is a good description of a fieldfare flock. They seem like loutish gangs, rumbustious raiding parties, travelling through the wood and gorging on rowan berries. But where do they come from and why?
Fieldfares come here from Scandinavia in the winter. Hard as it may seem to believe, our winters are mild compared to theirs! They are thrushes, but a fair bit bigger and greyer than a song thrush. They are very vocal- if you walk through the wood, they fly off ahead of you with lots of “chuk-chuk-chuk” calls. They’re smart and incredibly hard to sneak up on – they have the advantage of lots of pairs of eyes to look out for danger. I’d swear they leave a “sentry bird” in the tree which I try and hide under! Abroad, in summer, they also breed in colonies and have a novel way of deterring predators – they all fly at a potential predator and poo on it. This can be really bad news for a predatory bird- the poo destroys the waterproofing in feathers and the bird can get chilled and even die! Fortunately they don’t do this in the winter.
The big flocks are hanging around near Burn o Vat and Bogingore right now as that’s where the berries are. Rowans are one of their favourite food but they also love apples and will visit gardens to scoff any windfall fruit- or any apples still on the trees. They’ve already stripped every rowan berry on the south and east of Loch Kinord, so the berries won’t last long. Then they’ll move on. So get out into the countryside and try and catch up with these spectacular winter visitors. Just keep an eye on any rowan trees!