Thrushes

After the swallow-like birds head off to Africa, did you know that other birds fly into Clane to ‘enjoy’ our winter weather?

Most of our winter visitors come from the Arctic, places where the winter weather is extremely harsh. Many of these visitors are thrushes – usually medium-sized brownish birds with spotted bellies – and several types of thrushes can be found in Clane…

The Song Thrush (An Smólach) is perhaps our most well known thrush. It has a yellowish tinge under its wings, and can be seen in gardens and hedges throughout the year. It is famous for its wonderful singing, and often repeats its phrases two, three or four times. The Song Thrush is a gardener’s friend:  if you find some battered snail shells near a stone, there is a good chance a local song thrush is using it as an anvil.

The Mistle Thrush (An Liatráisc) is our largest thrush, and also stays with us all year round. It can be seen in small family groups anywhere about the town on grassy areas, or in mature trees. These birds have a distinctive rasping sound like a wooden rattle…sometimes a sign that bad weather is on the way.

The Redwing (An Deargán Sneachta) is like a song thrush but has a distinctive red patch under its wing. These birds fly in from Iceland, Scandinavia and Northern Russia for the winter, and can sometimes be seen in small flocks in the trees on both banks of the river along the Liffey walk.

The Fieldfare (An Sacan) is the other thrush that joins us only for the winter. It is bigger than the Redwing, and has a grey head and rump. If the weather is particularly cold they move in from the fields and take berries from garden shrubs. They can sometimes be seen sitting quietly in the taller trees around the town.

The Blackbird (An Lon dubh), Robin (An Spideog) and Stonechat (An Caislín Cloch) are also members of the thrush family found in the area, but we will introduce them in a future posts.

Nearly all of the thrushes depend on berries, so if you have hedges that need trimming consider cutting them back later in the winter. Indeed, if you are very lucky, you may get a visit from some even more exotic visitors. When the winter in Norway, Sweden and Finland is particularly harsh, Waxwings head off over the North Sea and a few years ago some of them made it all the way here. These are striking pinkish/brown birds with a head-crest, a black moustache and eye stripe, small red and yellow patches on their wings, and a yellow band on their tail. Keep an eye out for them in the winter in case they come back.

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