Having spent some time this morning watching a whole flock of redwings pecking around in the dog run (eugh!) I thought it was time for a vaguely twitchy post for all you wannabe ornithologists.
I've lived in the glorious south east of London for about 20 years now and I don't think I've ever seen so many redwings in one place in the whole of this time - certainly not outside of the parks.
These winter visitors are quite easy to identify, both they and the fieldfare are members of the thrush family and you might at first mistake them for thrushes. However the distinguishing features are quite clear.
With redwings, the clue is in the name. They have a quite bright stripe of red feathers just below their wings, as well as distinct yellow and brown markings on their heads. They are about the same size as the song thrush, with a similarly coloured breast, but unlike the song thrush, they are usually seen in groups. This morning's flock was somewhere between 20 and 30! They are not often seen in towns, much less cities, but the recent cold snap is the culprit. With much of the surrounding countryside still under snow, now is your best chance to spot them in our urban landscape.
Fieldfares are also winter visitors to the UK, and sometimes hang around with redwings. They are similar to the mistle thrush, much bigger than the song thrush, but with a more bluey/grey colouring to their plumage.
When it gets too warm for these colourful birds, anywhere between March and May, they will return north to Scandinavia and Iceland to breed.
Take a good look at them. You will see from the RSPB site that both are endangered.