Fieldfare throws its weight around my garden


As I write, the snow is quickly disappearing under fresh winds and frequent squally rain showers. The nearby Ettrick Water is in full spate, but thankfully seems to be coping with the sudden influx of surplus water.

Saturday was Big Garden Birdwatch Day for me, as I thought it would be best to do it while the snow was still around, as there would be more hungry birds on view. The idea is to log all the birds visiting your garden during a selected hour, noting the highest number of each species seen at the same time to avoid counting the same birds repeatedly.

I was quite happy with the result, particularly since one species turned up which I had never seen in the garden before.

A single fieldfare hung around for days during the snow, feasting on the apples pegged to the ground for the blackbirds.

It was very aggressive towards other birds, especially blackbirds, and spent a lot of time and energy chasing them off. Even when a female pheasant approached one of the apples, it stood its ground, adopting a crouching threat posture and refusing to back down. In all, I logged 12 species made up of 28 individuals, which was about par for the course.

Typically, after I had finished the tree sparrows and great spotted woodpecker turned up, but that was to be expected!

While out walking during the snowy spell, I couldn’t help noticing that spring was lurking just below the white blanket, just waiting to emerge.

Daffodil leaves were thrusting skyward and a careful search revealed a few snowdrops in bloom, but they were virtually impossible to see against the background of white. Another flower which is equally as hardy and a bit easier to spot in the snow, is the winter aconite. After a bit of hunting, I managed to locate a few, but they looked dormant, awaiting the sun’s warmth to open their petals.

Originating from the Balkans, Southern France and Italy, eranthis hyemalis is at home among tree and scrub, rocky crevices and even meadows. It is ideally adapted to hostile conditions and is happy to colonise under the dense canopies of the most domineering trees. Thanks to a prudently-timed growth period, this bulbous relative of the buttercup emerges only after all canopies above it are laid bare by icy chills.

I have some in my garden which I “borrowed” from someone else’s garden.

Unfortunately, along with the bulbs, I imported the roots of ground elder and several years later, I am still trying to get rid of it. There’s a moral there somewhere.