Country diary: smelly berries are off the menu even for hungry fieldfares
Wolsingham, Weardale: Haws make a feast for birds that give the scarlet fruits of the guelder rose a wide berth
The fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) descended on the hawthorn like garrulous gatecrashers at a genteel cocktail party, scaring away two blackbirds. About 30 eventually settled, cackling to each other as they began to strip haws from the twigs. These assertive winter visitors from Scandinavia and Russia are wary, flighty birds. I have rarely been able to watch their feeding technique from close quarters, but today the nearest was barely 10 feet away.
First, the intense gaze focused on a hawthorn berry. Then a lunge, a tug and a twist to wrench the prize from its stalk, a brief pause with the haw in its beak, and finally a deft toss of the head to send it down the gullet. Seven fruits in less than a minute. At this rate the local berry crop, heavy this year, would be exhausted well before Christmas.