| On this bright morning, the redwing are looking particularly smart|
|Somewhere a weather pattern has changed and its changing has triggered a response that is apparent as soon as we draw back the curtains on this bright morning. The field next to the house is alive with birds feeding in probing stabs at the ground then pausing for a few seconds with raised heads before dashing forward several steps to feed again.|
A closer look reveals there are more birds similarly occupied in the field beyond and, as we watch, more and more birds arrive to join them. There are hundreds now and almost all are redwing, although here and there scattered among them are a few fieldfares. For both these members of the thrush family this is just a brief refuelling stop on their way from winter quarters to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.
The redwing are looking particularly smart, the early sun picking out the bold creamy white eye stripe and lending a glowing warmth to the chestnut red visible on their flanks and on the underwings of those gliding down to join the already feeding birds. Some alight in the garden where they forage through the newly weeded borders searching for what they can find among the clumps of primroses and a tangle of low shrubs just coming into leaf. Others have perched in the little ash tree where they, along with those lining the fences, keep up a constant soft chatter.
For us it is, as ever, both a delight and a wonder to see a mass of birds on the move like this – but for the little merlin it is an irresistible opportunity. As it comes scything in at high speed the redwing launch themselves into the air in a rippling explosion of panic. Low to the ground, jinking and turning in pursuit of its chosen prey, the merlin vanishes from sight. And after no more than a brief swirling flight the scattered flock of redwing reassembles and gets back to the serious business of feeding.