Wildlife to see in November - Fieldfares
Why are berries on our hedgerows so important? The lovely haws, rosehips and blackberries feed not only our resident birds and mammals but also our visiting winter birds such as the fantastic Fieldfares. Fieldfares breed in northern and eastern Europe in the summer, but as these areas experience colder winters than the UK, the birds fly many miles over land and sea, in the late autumn to feed in our hedgerows, orchards and farmland. Small flocks can be found around Risby’s orchard, near the Cavenham road out of the village and along Lackford Lane.
These colourful birds are a member of the Thrush family: they have a white stripe above their eye, a yellow throat, a speckled white portly middle, a browny orange pair of wings and upper back that merges into a grey lower back which finally ends with a black tail. They are a social bird, which sounds like a chuckling crowd as they move around the countryside. When Fieldfares first arrive here in the autumn, they will feed on hedgerow berries before moving onto windfall apples later in the year, that’s why it’s beneficial to leave windfall apples for our wildlife to forage.
Like many species, Fieldfares are in decline in the UK, but their numbers are less serious than other wildlife at the moment, lack of suitable habitat and places to forage are one of their problems. The trimming of hedges is an issue for these birds, which can be easily overcome if people managed their hedges slightly differently. The PTES (people’s trust for endangered species) recommends ‘Incremental Cutting’ of hedges for hedges that require annual trimming. Here hedges are cut back to 10 cm of the latest year’s growth, the PTES says “Hedges that are allowed to steadily grow in this way maintain their thick dense structure, but have the additional bonus of always providing blossom and fruit”. Many hedge species will only produce blossom and then berries on wood that is 2 years old, so if a hedge is cut incrementally, it allows the hedge to bloom on the old wood but still look tidy. This is a great solution for our hedges to provide valuable food for our wildlife, just like our visiting Fieldfares.
Things you can practically do to help Fieldfares:
1. Maintain your hedge in a wildlife friendly way by optimising it for berries – incremental cutting is a great way to maximise berries but also keeps the hedge trimmed: see PTES website for more details
2. Only trim hedges back once the autumnal fruits have been eaten
3. If you don’t have a hedge but have room, plant a native hedge to feed our wildlife
Photo: This image was originally posted to Flickr by hedera.baltica