BLOG: Winter visitors by Den Cartlidge

A flock of noisy birds lands in a small holly tree on the edge of a tiny urban park. Flanked on two sides by busy roads, and surrounded by a pavement border, none of the people walking to work gives the park a second look. But I can’t help stopping to look up at the birds.
I’ve heard them before, and seen them too. They’re winter visitors, often seen in great flocks in the countryside, but some venture into the town as well looking for food, especially if the weather is harsh. There are two species gorging on the ruby berries. The smaller of the two is about the size of a song thrush, and the vivid red on its sides gives this bird its name. Redwings are migrants from Scandinavia and Russia, and they prefer our (usually) milder winters to the freezing weather back home. The slightly larger birds in the branches, about the size of a blackbird, all have a distinctive grey head and rump. The Fieldfare is a migrant from central and northern Europe, and last winter, a rather ill-tempered representative of this species was briefly a resident of my garden.
She arrived during a week of heavy snow, and she jealously guarded the apple slices I left out in the garden. When the cold snap eased and this northern visitor departed, I could almost hear an audible sigh of relief from the local blackbirds. But I was glad to have this visitor in my garden, and looking up at the holly tree in the park, with its rapidly depleting supply of berries, I remembered her grumpy antics with a smile.