Tuesday 26 January 2021

A Winter Fieldfare 25th January 2021

I go to bed each night wondering how I will get through tomorrow but somehow I seem to manage to find something to occupy me each day and thus another day passes as I endure this current dispiriting restriction of my liberty, which I pray will end soon. 

Today it was the unexpected arrival of a Fieldfare that served to distract and delight me, a visitor from across the North Sea, hard pressed for food due to the current snowfall and as a result emboldened by hunger to resort to our neighbour's crab apple tree that stands but metres from our kitchen window, there to scoff the plentiful fruit, in reality each 'apple' no bigger than a cherry. 

Doubtless it found such an abundance of fruit on the tree a welcome and opportune source of nourishment that will now give it a strong chance of survival, as the snow that fell yesterday still lies extensively in and around the village. This morning it was a glittering sunlit carpet of frozen whiteness covering most of the ground and preventing any chance of finding food. All the hawthorn berries too, have long since gone from the hedgerows, consumed by roving bands of Fieldfares and Redwings in the preceding months.

The tree, being so close to our kitchen window, enabled me to use the kitchen as a ready made hide to watch and photograph the bird as it fed on the fruit. 

The local Blackbirds, used to having their own way and dominance over the smaller birds that also visit the tree, were in for a rude shock as they flew in to pick at the fruit, only to be given short shrift by the Fieldfare, which larger than a Blackbird, would seek to further impress with fluffed up feathers, partially spread wings and tail, chasing them around and out of the tree without ceremony.

The Fieldfare's aggressive demeanour probably meant it was a male and it had obviously decided that this tree was not to be shared if at all possible.What will happen if others of its kind discover the tree is anyone's guess but probably it will have to give way.

The local gang of House Sparrows which cheerily chirp away the day and live their communal lives for much of the time in the tangled twigs of the tree, were tolerated and they sat unmolested in the bright  sun, shining down from a sky of ice blue.

The Fieldfare was unable to swallow the small fruits whole, perching to look around until it found one to its liking. Then it would stab the fruit, tear off  a small chunk of skin and pulp and swallow the piece, leaving the fruit with a gaping wound of orange in its red skin. There were so many to choose from it rarely concentrated on just one but, like a child given run in a sweet shop, would move from one to another as if never satisfied with the one it had selected. Always there was one better to sample.

To see this normally wary bird so close was all the more thrilling as it was so unexpected. A thing of beauty, one of the handsomest of its family, possessed of an upperbody of grey and rich brown, its underparts true to its thrush heritage, a mixture of closely aligned streaks and spots underlain with shades of buff, yellow and white.

At intervals, gorged to a standstill on the surfeit of fruit it would perch in the sunlit tree, content on having found not only a plentiful supply of food but a safe and congenial place to rest until the urge of hunger prompted it once more.

When the snow goes it will seek the surrounding fields and join others of its kind, for they are sociable birds that relish company even when nesting. In the fields that normally provide an adequate winter home it will seek its prey of worms, forced to the surface and available once more in ground  made waterlogged from the snow melt and its life will once more become true to its name. Fieldfare.

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