Today the Redwings came. I had been waiting for them and occasionally straining my ear to hear their quiet but clear tseep of a call. Every time I went out after dusk to shut the chickens and ducks in I paused to listen, head tilted towards the dark skies like our resident Blackbirds listening for worms, but with the other ear. As yet I hadn’t heard any calls and it seemed that these winter visitors were not yet passing overhead.
The weather over the last week had become ‘Redwing’ weather: grey, cool, damp and a bit misty. Of course, Redwings, our smallest thrushes, are here throughout all sorts of winter weather but somehow deep in my naturalist’s psyche lies embedded an association such that when the weather turns autumnal, I expect Redwings.
I had noted with a little disappointment that a single Redwing had been reported the day before elsewhere in the county as secretly I had hoped to get the first report in. Of course this is pure sentimentality as really it would only be my first Redwing, not the first Redwing.
But today, I walked out into the garden and immediately could hear the great skyway of Redwing migration passing high above my head. As if standing on the slip-road to a busy motorway service station I then witnessed some fifty Redwings peel off the main flow and drop down and, with a brief flutter of agitated wings, land in the tall plane and horse chestnut trees around the garden. With their tseeping calls it was as if they were, all in one breath, wishing their fellow travellers God-speed while letting out a sigh of tired relief at the Welcome Break.
The spectacle only lasted a moment as the Redwings, leaving their engines running, rose up in smaller groups as if struggling to adjust to the sudden braking of their flight, and moved beyond our trees and out of sight. Brief though it was I nevertheless felt that unmistakable thrill of reconnecting with a familiar winter bird and being witness to its moment of relief at ending its journey and landing in our Redwing-friendly garden.
Now I know that most nights when I venture into the garden I will hear that urgent tseep call and know that far above my head, somewhere in the dark, a little Redwing is passing. The season of thrush movement has begun and not far behind will be the larger Fieldfares with their chack-chack calls and fluttering wingbeats. It feels barely a few weeks ago that I was watching them gather to leave this spring – I do believe time may have flown too!