Tony Drakeford's nature notes

WINTER GUESTS

We may be familiar with some of our winter visiting birds such as redwings and fieldfares which join us from Scandinavia in large flocks.

Members of the thrush family, they are eager to feast on our holly, hawthorn and pyracantha berries but tend to leave those until real winter bites, and can be seen mainly in open meadows before then.

Waxwings may also fly in if the weather turns very cold.

However, what may not be generally realized is that many of our garden birds may be joined by others from northern Europe, including blackbirds and robins.

Our garden robin may be friendly to us but he can be very aggressive to others of his own kind and fights may result in one of them being battered to death.

Continental robins are far less trusting, rarely accompanying us as we weed and even less likely is he to adopt the classic pose of perching on or garden spade!

Another surprise visitor from the Continent is the skylark. Meadowland in Richmond and Bushey parks and on Wimbledon Common often play host to small flocks.

Even more remarkable is the fact that our tiniest European species, the dainty goldcrest, weighing little more than a 20p piece may fly hundreds of miles south to seek warmer weather.