SPECIES TO LOOK OUT FOR
A combination of rusty-red flanks and underwings along with a creamy-white supercilium above the eye easily distinguish the smallest of our native thrushes. Arriving in southern Britain from Scandinavia, wintering flocks are generally shy and easily disturbed. Their soft, thin ‘sssip’ flight call is also immediately diagnostic, once learnt.
Slightly smaller than a mistle thrush, this winter visitor from northerly latitudes has a grey head and rump, which contrasts with a chestnut back and a spotty breast. With its distinct ‘chack, chack, chack’ call, this bossy denizen of winter hedgerows and orchards is frequently heard before seen, so keep your eyes and ears open.
A ‘mistle’ on the ground appears both larger and with greyer upperparts than its song thrush cousin. The distinctive white underwings and bounding flight should also clinch its identification in flight. The dry rattling call of this bold, aggressive thrush is frequently heard while it throws its weight around among the apple trees ( right).
Only the males of this largish warbler have a black cap, as the crown of the female is the colour of terracotta. British overwintering blackcaps are thought to hail from breeding populations in Germany and north-east Europe and are commonly seen in winter orchards due to their fondness for mistletoe berries.
This evergreen plant lives among the branches of soft-barked trees, such as apple. Tapping into the nutrients of their host, each globe of vegetation is either a ‘male’ or ‘female’. However, birds are only interested in female plants, as they’re the ones with the berries.