The First Fieldfare of the Year - Turdus pilaris

Saw the first fieldfare of this autumn in the garden this morning. the photos are not too good as it was early morning and the sky overcast. But it's definitely a fieldfare. It was feeding on the Rowan or Mountain Ash. Unusually it was on it's own, and I couldn't see any others around. Although we tend to get a little excited about seeing fieldfares in the UK, they are common in Europe. I was in Poznan, Poland earlier in the year, and the local park across the road was chock full of fieldfares feeding, squabbling and protecting their territories.

The Welsh name for the Fieldfare is Socan Eira, meaning 'snow lover' or 'little snow gaiters'. Possibly a reference to the fact that they are winter visitors (1). In Polish it's Kwiczol (2), which is something similar to the call they make to my mind which is a harsh 'chack-chack'.

It is a winter migrate from northern Europe, but there are records of breeding in the UK. They start to arrive in the UK from October through to November. If the weather is mild their arrival is delayed as food remains available in northern Europe. However, if the winter arrives early in Scandinavia the number arriving here can be huge.

The Fieldfare is a member of the Thrush family, and the similarity with other members is clear. They are more often seen in flocks in the countryside, but when food becomes scarce later in winter, or if the weather is harsh they readily visit gardens. So I was surprised to see one so soon this year outside.   It is commonly thought that they are berry eaters, but in fact prefer worms, grubs and other invertebrates. Switching to fruit and berries when their preferred food is less available.

The graph below shows the reporting rate on the BTO Bird Track website of the appearance of the Fieldfare for 2012 and 2013 to-date (3). The cold winter of early 2013 reflects the frequency of reported sightings.

One thing I noticed as I was watching it feeling on the berries, this particular Rowan is the only one of three nearby that still has it's berries. The other two have dropped all their berries, one of which has made a right mess of the vegetable garden.

1: Cocker, M. & Maybe,.R. (2005) Birds Britannica. Chatto & Windus.
2: BTO
3: BTO Bird Track