With the Cotoneaster berries now frozen solid and as hard as ball bearings most of the feeding activity seems to have changed to ground feeding by the Winter Thrushes, the softer berries can be consumed easier and with large amounts of berries laying in the snow it's rich pickings. There's nothing unusual with seeing Blackbird, Redwing and Mistle Thrush around the garden but Fieldfare seem to be very scarce here at the moment, a few passing groups at the end of October and a few scattered flocks along hedgerows towards dusk on a couple of occasions recently and that's been it. Since the snow arrived last Thursday there have been a handful of Fieldfare hanging around, no doubt due to the cold weather and the activity of accumulating numbers of Winter Thrushes in the area.
At 11am a quick scan round the garden found Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwing and an amazing 22 Blackbirds all feeding together under a tree on fallen berries, I can't ever recall seeing so many Blackbirds at once before and it was interesting to watch them all feeding together with the other Thrushes, plenty of squabbling despite the abundance of berries. A lone Starling was sat in the top of one of the old Oaks chattering away to itself and both Magpie and Jay were further down the tree. Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tit were all actively seeking food from any available source as were 2 Robins and a Wren.
Nearing lunchtime I was just heading down the driveway to clear some snow when I heard an unmistakable prruk-prruk-prruk sound, knowing exactly what it was I stopped in my tracks and looked skyward. The calls were getting louder and closer when suddenly a Raven appeared over the tree tops and flew straight over my head, it was quickly followed by another and continually calling they flew over heading west. Absolutely brilliant views of these huge Corvids. Long diamond shaped tail, broad fingered wings which were swept back as it glided over, the much used description of the "Maltese Cross" was very apt indeed.
I ventured out again after lunch to put some food out for the birds and at the same time digiscope them eating it, easier said than done as one tuff-ars*d Magpie accompanied by 2 Wood Pigeons flew down and after flushing everything else ate the lot. I tried again and scattered more than enough to keep them going, to be honest all of the Thrushes were interested in berries and berries alone, not even a few specialist mixes would change their feeding habits. I was looking through the many different types of Blackbird we had on show, Males, Females, 1st Winter birds and noticing their slightly different plumage tones and bill colours, I was getting quite engrossed when I noticed a Thrush hop through the view of my scope and behind a tree, quickly panning across I found a Song Thrush along with the Blackbirds meaning that I had seen all the 5 common/winter Thrushes in the garden in one go. Over the next hour or so I managed to see them all feeding together under the same tree, getting photos of them was going to be slightly harder as they constantly squabbled with each other which in itself seemed a bit crazy as there are so much food to go around. At times there were up to 30 Thrushes on the ground feeding together, the Fieldfares argued with the Redwings and the Song Thrush, the Mistle Thrush argued with the Redwing and the Blackbirds arguing with everything that came near.
A walk across the nearby fields late afternoon brought sightings of Bullfinch and a few Tit flocks and surprisingly one Skylark singing from high above the snow covered fields. In truth it was very quiet with not a lot to be seen, hard to believe a few months ago I was watching Chiffchaff, Willow & Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher along these very hedgerows. A surprising find was a herd? of 6 Greater Rheas in one of the nearby farm fields, they certainly looked out of place searching for food amongst the snow and not the normal non-native species that is found in farms today. Pheasant, Partridge, Quail, Guinea Fowl and now Rhea's, god knows what carnage they'd cause if they got lose!