The Redwings are back! I’ve been listening out for them each night, as I always do at this time of year, as I go out to shut my chickens and ducks in. This year they are a little earlier and I have not yet heard them flying over at night but have instead seen them in small numbers during the day.
Like the arrival of the Swallows in spring, the Redwings herald the true arrival of the autumn-winter period and following close behind will be the ‘chack-chacking’ Fieldfares, swooping down to feast on berry-clad bushes.
These winter thrushes bring a sense of wildness and remoteness to our tame southern landscape with their nervous alertness as they traverse our cold, grey skies high up in straggling flocks. Occasionally they plunge suddenly down and gorge on ripened fruit but only so long, and then they flee skywards again, perhaps journeying on to the continent further south.
Watching Redwings on our lawn in winter I do not get the same sense as when watching our resident Blackbirds or Song Thrushes. There is no feeling of the Redwings being at home; rather they stay out in the open, ever watchful, a unit all hopping in one direction together and at the slightest threat they fly quickly high up into the tall trees.
They are just visiting and, like the Ring Ouzels in the spring, bring a sense of northern chill and tougher climes. They have known hard times and that is why they are here. Our still green southern gardens are nice but they do not do ‘nice’: this is about food and survival not nesting. They serve as a timely reminder to any complacent resident birds that winter is approaching and storing up fat reserves and avoiding predation is the imperative of the day.
So if you find yourself outside at night, listen out for these little birds that have weathered the storms to cross the North Sea and are now flying overhead. Their thin ‘tseep’ call is a call of the wild and, for me, sits beautifully with the changing seasons and autumnal weather.
Click play to listen to Redwings calling in flight:
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) · call
Recording by: Peter Boesman, Heist, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium