It was bitterly cold while at Chishill last month and while the temperature was above freezing the dampness of the air and the breeze could really get into you. Being one of the highest points in Cambridgeshire didn’t help either: which can be seen by how the frost hangs on the hill some mornings.
Following the first frosts of 2014, and the hardening of the ground, fieldfares were moving their feeding preferences away from soil invertebrates to the fallen apples of our orchard. All apples and some pears have dropped to the ground providing several weeks of welcome snacking for up to four thrush species. This includes the resident blackbirds and song thrushes but also includes migratory redwings and fieldfares; the latter have been counted in flocks of more than 400 birds. All in all it makes for a noisy gathering.
We all know how important a reliable food supply is, it is one of three essentials to life for us all (along with water and air). This is demonstrated here with the coming together of such large groups. In the past we have seen flocks of linnets, estimated to be in the region of 700 in number, feeding on the wild bird seed mix areas planted to help fill the ‘hungry gap’. We have now taken the winter feeding to the next stage by installing supplementary feeders at key points on both farms as the seed mix areas were being exhausted of food before the winter broke.
So much of life is like a jigsaw to me. You need all the pieces to be really successful, but it only takes one piece to be missing to spoil the picture, or upset the balance. A lack of food at any time of year is a problem but in deep winter when conditions are particularly harsh and need is high the value of our seed mix strips and supplementary feeders can really be seen.
Photos ©Paul Goddard