Friday, November 18, 2016

A Fieldfare Find

The weather is pretty dire again with strong westerlies combined with frequent heavy showers of rain and hail, or snow on higher ground. There’s little point in going out birding and no chance of ringing today, but instead news and pictures of Fieldfares. 


We’re having a good run of information from our ringing efforts at Oakenclough on the edge of the Pennine Hills and the Bowland Forest. Since starting this project a couple years ago Andy and I have where possible focused on catching species and bird families that are migratory rather than resident. 

We have been targeting finches and thrushes in particular, a strategy which has paid off with some very interesting recoveries of Goldfinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. There was an unexpected but fascinating Goldcrest caught too, one that seemed to be heading for a winter in France. 

The latest communiqué from the BTO involves a first year Fieldfare ring number LC51848 caught on the morning of 31st October 2015. We caught just four Fieldfares that morning but LC51848 was later recaptured by another ringer - on 31st October 2016, exactly 12 months later, this time in Gwynedd, North Wales. 

Fieldfare - Oakenclough to Gwynedd, Wales


On initial inspection the detail of elapsed time and distance travelled may not seem too fascinating but the Fieldfare’s probable lifestyle in the intervening period makes for interesting thoughts and speculation. 

The Fieldfares that arrive in the UK in October and November originate from Scandinavia and are migrants whose departure date is dependent upon the timing and abundance of the northern berry crop. As a highly gregarious species whole flocks fly off south and west on a broad front during October/November and within a day or two the same birds arrive across Britain in sometimes huge numbers. They then begin a roaming lifestyle in search of wild fruit crops. They visit hedgerows until the berry crop is exhausted after which they feed upon invertebrates taken from open fields or visit orchards to feed on fallen fruit, especially during cold and icy spells.


Some wintering Fieldfares travel as far as northwest France and northwest Iberia where they come under pressure from hunters who can take a heavy toll on thrush species as a whole. 


The wintering population of Fieldfares in Britain is thought to number about a million individuals. During March and April Fieldfares begin their journey back north but this time with a greater urgency. They continue their gregarious lifestyle and upon arrival in their breeding grounds where they occasionally nest in colonies of 40-50 pairs. In certain situations and free from hunting and disturbance Fieldfares have taken to nesting in town parks, orchards and gardens, as well as tree-lined streets, especially in Norway. 


So after spending its first winter in Britain our Fieldfare LC51848 found its way back to Sweden or Norway during 2016 where hopefully it bred and raised a whole new family. In mild winters some Fieldfares are able to stay in Scandinavia and dispense with the need to leave the northern cold.

But in the autumn of  2016 our Fieldfare chose to migrate south and west again on very much the same trajectory as it did in 2015. Luckily another ringer was around to provide us with yet more data on Fieldfares.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.


Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) The Fieldfare is a beautiful bird, and your Fieldfare photos are lovely. I saw one yesterday foraging on the ground in our local park, but it's not a common sight.

Linda said...

What a sweet and beautiful bird the Fieldfare is, Phil! :)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! We could use some of your rain here in Florida. It is very dry and now there are some fires. Your Fieldfare is a beautiful bird. I hope they are finding enough to eat.

Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots of fieldfare.

Jeanne said...

Beautiful shots of these lovely birds and such interesting information from your ringing. Hope the weather improves!!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...


It's great to see your efforts paying off over the years, Phil.

Kay L. Davies said...

That first photo really caught my eye, Phil. You know I'm no birder, and of course I'm just responding to something I think is "so cute!" which I'm sure isn't birder language.
Seriously, though, I do admire your skill as a photographer. You have caught a wonderful expression in the third photo, wonderful colour in the fourth, and perfect light in the last one. I like the second one best, though, as the bird seems wonderfully unconcerned about human presence.
I am reminded of my father's photos in the books he wrote about the rivers of British Columbia, and the only word I can think of to describe your and his love of the subject is just for what you and he were doing.
I'm only now beginning to recover from Scotland, England, and the Aegean and Mediterranean cruise ports. My new favourite place is Montenegro. It is lovelier than I had hoped it would be.
Hi to Sue from me, please.

Stuart Price said...

Sometimes I forget just what a beautiful bird the Fieldfare is............

Russell Jenkins said...

Wonderful pictures, Phil. That first one should be printed and framed. As Stuart said, they are beautiful birds.

Sandy Kessler said...

Fieldfare most interesting send me some rain

Stewart M said...

These are great birds. I remember a very hard winter in the late 70s or early 80s when Somerset was coated in these and Redwings - I often wonder what fraction of the UK population were there - but they were everywhere!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Lovely birds, great shots!

NC Sue said...

Such pretty birds - I wish we had them here!~
Thanks for sharing with us at

Lowcarb team member said...

These really are the prettiest of birds.
Love your photo's.

All the best Jan

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