Alyth Bird Blog #9 - winter update
Updated: Feb 22
The popularity (and health benefits) of birdwatching - serious or casual - during lockdowns and travel restrictions has been well-documented in the media. Looking at birds, whether from our windows or as part of a local walk, provides interest and purpose and for many people has been the start of a new hobby. A good time, then, for another blog looking at what's around Alyth mid-winter.
Anybody hoping to see waxwings this season has probably been disappointed - it has not been what is called a 'waxwing year' (when the shortage of suitable berry crops in Scandinavia drives these beautiful birds west to our shores). Our more usual winter visitors from the continent in the form of redwings and fieldfares are, however, still with us in good numbers and may sometimes pay a visit to our gardens, especially when snow covers the ground and if berry-bearing trees and shrubs like holly, juniper, cotoneaster and hawthorn are present.
Fieldfares (also known as stormcock and flirty fleer in Scotland) are large, colourful thrushes, spending the winter in flocks of anything from a dozen or two to several hundred strong. Look for its grey head and chestnut back.
FACTOID - fieldfares will aggressively defend their nests, often pelting intruders with droppings!
The smallest British thrush, the redwing arrives from Scandinavia and Russia (plus a small number from Iceland) as autumn visitors, often associating with fieldfares. Look out for orange patches on their flanks and a creamy stripe over the eyes.
FACTOIDS - Redwings also breed in very small numbers (maybe only 18 pairs) in northern Scotland. Forfar folk may still refer to the bird as redwing mavis.
Other birds to look out for during winter
I've certainly been aware of increasing birdsong over the past few weeks, most noticeably from wood pigeon, great tit, robin, chaffinch, song thrush and greenfinch. Keep and eye open for birds carrying nesting material - pigeons and crows start early.
During winter, small birds often form mixed flocks and I've noticed mixed groups of chaffinch, yellowhammer, bullfinch, tits and sometimes lesser redpoll seem to like the deciduous trees at the south-east corner of Jubilee park. The, normally, very territorial dippers in the burn also seem to be pairing-up ready for breeding.
Maybe you have been feeding your garden birds - if so I'd love to hear what's been visiting and if you have taken photos you can share them too! You can revisit all previous blogs by going to: Alyth Bird Blog – Alyth Bird Blog (wordpress.com)