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Country notebook

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2013

By Philip Bowern

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Fieldfares in the garden, feeding on the windfall apples that have gone too far to be worth collecting up for the cider press. The bird's arrival signals colder weather to the north.

Of the 750,000 birds that come to our shores, fewer than than five pairs remain during the summer to breed. The rest return to Scandinavia – truly a migratory species.

Fieldfares are colourful little members of the thrush family, noisy and clamorous birds and often seen gathering in loose flocks on fields and pastures. Like other thrushes, the fieldfare is partial to a fruit and there is plenty in my small orchard, despite all the hard work I have done collecting up the windfalls.

Around half a tonne at the last count has been picked up, bagged up and delivered to the cider makers who, I am hoping, will be happy to pay me in last year's cider!

Orchards, especially ancient ones, are hugely valuable for wildlife, sustaining birds and insects right through the year. The softening, rotting fruit is perfect at this time of year for all kinds of birds and since it lasts well into winter, will sustain even when other crops have disappeared.

Late cut maize fills the hungry gap for woodpigeons which also flock up in significant numbers in late autumn.

Until a week or so back they were gorging on another crop in my garden – fallen acorns from the big oak near the hedge.

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