I had being wondering when I would hear the ‘Chack – chack – chack’ sound for the first time this winter. It brought a smile to my face when as I was cycling from Cloncannon Biofarm to church this Sunday morning December 1st , I seemed to scare a flock of birds from the roadside hedgerows and out went that call. This encounter sent my mind considering a potential pending cold snap of weather. The Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) is a winter visitor from Scandinavia and northern Europe.
I think that sightings of the fieldfare for the first time on December 1st is much later than normal and that in previous years they tended to arrive in October. But this has been an extremely mild autumn/early winter. They belong to the thrush family and are similar to the mistle thrush in size. I expect to see the flocks move steadily across the fields as the forage and also advance through hedgerows as they feed on berries, hawthorn been a favourite. They will also feed on windfall apples, insects and worms. They will visit the garden feed stations in times of severe frost. It has been observed that whether feeding on the ground or roosting in a tree, the entire flock faces the same direction. When fieldfares take off from the ground they tend to wheel in flight and be constantly calling. In flight a white under-wing is visible. Male and female have similar colourings. During the breeding season the colony tends to be very defensive and are known to use well aimed defecation against the intruder.
The old Irish name for the fieldfare is the ‘sacan or siocan’ which is probably from the word ‘sioc’ which means frost (frost bird), as it arrives in the winter. Its cousin the Redwing will I hope also be gracing the fields of Cloncannon Biofarm. This seasonal migration into our local habitat (part of the global habitat) is driven by three fundamental instincts: the endless search for food, the need for a safe place and the natural desire to produce young. The migratory species of the world use various navigational skills or instincts. Some birds are said to have inherited a genetic map from their parents which enables them to navigate. This is quiet phenomenal but we must remember that birds are thought to have evolved about 150 million years ago. Now that is worth repeating because it is a long long time. The beauty and diversity of birds in the world is amazing but I’m afraid that for some species all is not well as their habitat or food supplies are been destroyed. In Cloncannon strive to enhance the hedgerows and pastures for our companions on earth.
Just to let you know about another aspect of Nature that I welcome at this time of the year, and that is a species of gorse coming into flower very slowly over the past two weeks. It sure makes a nice follow – on to the beautiful autumn colours. Enjoy this wonderful habitat we share with all living things.