Friday, 25 January 2013

The Frosty Fieldfare

I was in the study this afternoon, staring idly out of the window, waiting for inspiration to strike, when I caught sight of a rather handsome-looking bird flitting around the snow-covered bushes and trees in the garden. At first I thought it was a jay, but it was just a shade too small, and when it turned around to face me, I noticed its mottled chest, and thought perhaps it was a kind of thrush, although not one I'd ever seen in the garden before. I had some binoculars handy, and a sketchbook, so I did a very quick, very rough sketch before it flew away. When I looked it up in a bird guidebook, I discovered that it was a fieldfare, a winter migrant from northern climes, and I remembered that I had in fact seen them on a trip we'd made to Finland a few years ago, where they seem to be as common there as blackbirds are in this country.
A while later it returned, and stayed most of the afternoon. It was on its own, and I wondered if it had got separated from the rest of its flock. Perhaps it was on a scouting mission, and tomorrow the garden will be overrun with them. Apparently, the bird used to be quite common, and was shot in great numbers - it is, by all accounts, very tasty - and it is mentioned by Chaucer:

above all the birds of winter, the frosty feldefares

The snow's melting. Dry tomorrow, but chilly.

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