When will the fieldfare and redwing come? The weather is so mild, so calm- scarcely seasonal for winter thrush. Chevrons of geese fly over town, calling to each other in a world of their own. Another beautiful morning with a soft blue haze taking out the fells to the west of Scout Scar. On the escarpment edge there’s a bank of heather and birch bark gleams silver, the leaves golden. Beyond lies the cliff with dark yew growing on a buttress of scree. A thrush alights in the top of a birch, sees me, and flies deeper into the wood. Which of the winter thrush, I wonder?
It’s half-term, a lovely day and there are little groups of people walking the escarpment edge. The wood below is a secret place, so this is a perfect spot for birdwatching- looking down into the trees, into the scree. I can hear winter thrush. Probably the mistle thrush I’ve been finding in recent weeks. I’m listening intently in the hope of that distinctive fieldfare note. I find a bird in a birch but it’s too far off to see clearly. They’re nervous birds and they’re only here because the wood below the cliff is inaccessible. I can hear a jay, and robins singing. And this elusive winter thrush. An autumn of fine colour but berries are not abundant. Not a single berry on the whitebeam growing in the limestone cliff and the yew trees dark green needles are not lit with red arils. Not a feast for winter thrush, so I hear only a couple of birds. This isn’t a feeding frenzy.
I stand on the cliff edge looking north, binoculars and camera taking me deeper into the wood, searching the secret places.
Bramble leaves are distinctive with autumn colour and fungal rot. Yesterday we saw a speckled wood butterfly, but I find none today.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)