As we near the end of October I am checking this Hawthorn scrub almost daily. So far only the local blackbirds have gathered to guard the fruit hoard. Some branches are already stripped, others hang heavy, the harvest line gradually retreating up the bushes. No sign yet of the redwings.
For weeks a buffer of soft mild southern air has been drawn up from the tropics, warm and moist it fuels the low pressure systems and brings us storms alternating with dull damp grey days that hang morosely under leaden skies. One day soon the winds will shift, the southern currents will drop their concentration and the north winds will sense the release, they will charge down from the artic, from Northern Europe and Scandinavia, of riding them will come the thrushes. This years contingency of winter’s forerunners, birds that come to raid our hedgerows with a rakish air of Nordic pillagers. Their russet hues and soft whistle call are intensely familiar yet these birds are strangers to us for half the year. Redwings come to us in winter to gorge on berries and fruit when the stocks in their breeding grounds, snow-bound, run low. Warm coloured though their plumage is, these thrushes bring a chill with them, a sense of something far harsher, brutal, darker, colder; North.