Sunday, 10 February 2013

memories of snowbirds

Two weeks ago, the weekend that my machine died, there was the last of the snow (I hope). Snow seems to make birds more visible.  So we were watching the bird feeder through the window, and saw several new kinds of birds.  First there was this:

possibly a reed bunting
On consulting our trusty bird book, we decided it was a reed bunting (or possibly a mutant sparrow).  While we were trying to identify it, we noticed another little brown bird hopping around on the ground.  I confidently identified it as a distant sparrow, then looked through the binoculars, saw it had quite a streaked breast, and a thin beak, and swiftly lost my confidence.  After consulting the bird book again, we tentatively decided on meadow pipit (or very mutant sparrow).  Then it flew up into the apple tree: maybe it was a tree pipit?  The bird book helpfully points out distinguishing features in its diagrams, such as differences in colour on tails or wings; unfortunately, there are no features indicated to distinguish between meadow pipits and tree pipits. The text says that the tree pipit is distinguished "from meadow pipit by voice, habitat; also by buffer, less olivaceous colour, pinker legs", and that the meadow pipit "perches less frequently than the tree pipit"; not very helpful features if you have only the one specimen! (The same book helpfully dubs warblers "confusing". Yet despite all this, or maybe because of it, it is my bird identification book of choice.)

While we were debating these identifications, we noticed a larger, more brightly-coloured bird. positively glowing in the sunshine, perched on the large trunk of the apple tree.  What an earth is that?  Feverish page-turning.  No doubt about it this time, it was a fieldfare.  Not only had we never seen one before, I can safely say I'd never even heard of them before.  It flew down to the ground, and pirouetted for our benefit.

fieldfare, showing off for the camera (front shot a little out of focus)
Gorgeous.  Almost makes the snow worthwhile.

fieldfare behind the dogwoods

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