NATURE NOTES

Winter Thrushes
Redwings and Fieldfares should have arrived in the Hungerford area in the last week of October and should stay until the end of March. They can be seen in flocks in the countryside usually in open fields or in hedgerows. Large flocks of winter thrushes can descend on hawthorn bushes and strip them bare of their red berries.

The British Trust for Ornithology has decided to conduct a survey of winter thrushes. Probably because they now appear on the Conservation Red List.
The BTO are asking for help from the public to find out how these birds use the countryside. If you want to help then you can contact them on their website, www.bto.org and go into birdtrack. Birdtrack is a partnership project run by the BTO, RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club which researches bird migration and distribution of birds.

The Redwing is the U.K‘s smallest thrush but it still
manages to reach our shores all the way from Scandinavia, where it breeds. It is slightly smaller than the Song Thrush we see in our gardens.The bird is very easy to identify. It has a prominent creamy eye stripe and red shoulder patches and is similar to a Song Thrush. Interestingly it roosts in the tops of hawthorn scrub, laurel and similar bushes at night time. Consequently bird lovers have been able to trap large numbers of them and ring them. Ringing helps to establish movement patterns and aids research.
Fieldfares are larger than Redwing and have grey heads and
rumps, and are approximately the same size as a Mistle Thrush.
They breed in Central Europe and in Scandinavia. Although they appear in large flocks with Redwings they prefer to roost on the ground. Both Redwings and Fieldfares will visit gardens if there is snow on the ground and there is an apple tree with fruit on it.

Partridges: I have recently driven around the byways of the Hungerford area and been amazed how many Red Legged Partridges are around. This bird seems to be everywhere, in fields and on tracks. It appears to have ousted the Grey Partridge, our native species. The Red Legged Partridge is also called the French Partridge and was introduced from France and Spain for shoots. The Grey Partridge is often called the English Partridge and is obviously not favoured by the shooting estates. I suspect this is part of the reason for its appearance on the Conservation Red List.The Grey Partridge has an orange head whereas the French Partridge has a black and white head.

So when you take a drive into the countryside this autumn look out for Thrushes and Partridges in the fields. I bet nobody will see an English Partridge.

Hawkeye


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