28 Dec 2009
Recently I was in a garden in which there were loads of cut up apples attached to trees and on the ground. These were attracting Blackcaps, loads of Blackbirds and Song thrushes. So I decided to put out a few apples sliced in half on the ground. I was surprised how quickly that the Blackbirds came to them. I was also pleased to find on the second day a Fieldfare, which would have been a garden tick for me.
They are a lovely bird and not one I see that regularly around where I live. So it was quite a surprise when I went home to my Parents in Donegal over Christmas to see quite large numbers of them.
There was a bit of snow on the ground when we left Co.Down on Christmas Eve but there was progressively more as we got to Donegal. My sister who lives in central Scotland had considerably more snow and was unable to get over for Christmas. My Wife and I and our boys stayed in a cottage whch my parents provide as a holiday cottage on our farm at Drumaboden. It is listed here with Shamrock Holiday Cottages. As the crow flies it is less than a mile to my parents house but by road about three. Once you were off the main roads the roads in Donegal were pretty treacherous and I was glad that I had four wheel drive. I stopped at my parents first of all to unload christmas presents and as I got out of the car I got a year tick with a Woodcock that flew directly over their house. We had my parents over to dinner on Christmas eve along with my mother's brother, who was over from England.
I woke up fairly early at about 7.00am and stuck my head out the door to find the temperature was -10C I dont think have ever experienced it as cold in Donegal. (I was later reminded that I was only a few months old one when there was a very harsh spell in Donegal in the winter of 1962/1963 which froze Lough Fern, this is the lough near my parents house.) The birds were already coming to the peanut feeder next to the house. Goldfinches, Siskins, Coal Tits and Blue Tits.
It always amazes me the difference between the male and female of the Siskin. I put out some muesli which attracted Robins and Blackbirds. I went for a walk in the fields behind the house and watched the sun coming up. It really was a beautiful morning.
I could hear Mistle Thrushes in the furthest fields from the house and as I approached I could see there were probably 40 Fieldfares in the Holly Bushes along with a number of Redwings.
I had to go back to the house so that children could open stockings. (I think they are a bit old for it now, but mother christmas had done a nice job!!) I then went down to the farm around my parents house and helped with the feeding and watering of the sheep. Even though they are kept in during the winter their buckets of water had completely frozen over. The yard was dangerously icy and I drove my mother from one door to another. One hip replacement in the last two years was more than enough for her! After lunch which was soup and cheese I headed back to our cottage while the boys were sledging and snowboarding. I wanted to get some shots of the Fieldfares and Redwings while there were still some berries on the trees. I first of all took a shot of one of the Ram Lambs. The light was dying away and I took this shot of the view from the top of the farm.
I had really left it too late and I had to boost the iso on the camera and over expose for the birds by nearly two stops to get any detail at all. I like this shot of the Redwing as you can see why it is so aptly named.
I was standing close to this Holly tree which earlier in the day had tons of berries and now had very few. The Fieldfares were quite wary and would approach and see me and either fly off or dive in behind the tree out of my line of sight. This was the best image I got.
Over the weekend I did get out the beach at Rosapenna where there were about 14 Ringed Plover , a Sanderling and offshore about 50 Common Scoter. On the way to the beach we were approaching Glen on this dreadfully icy road and came round a corner to find I would say about 200 Fieldfares in the bushes on either side of the road.
Overall a pretty good Christmas and the snow was a bonus as were the Fieldfares!!