Invaders from the north pile into Cumbria Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves

Tuesday 16th November 2010

In a yearly re-enactment of Viking invasions redwings and fieldfares are flocking to our shores from northern Europe, and have appeared at many of Cumbria Wildlife Trust's nature reserves.

These are the ‘winter thrushes’ that many wildlife lovers use to mark the changing seasons, as they give a sure sign that winter is on its way. Leave a window open overnight through October, and you are almost certain to hear these birds calling as they fly overhead. By November, hundreds of thousands will be in the country, having travelled from Scandinavia and Iceland, and once you are tuned into the calls, you will start to see and hear them in a variety of places.

Mike Douglas, Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve officer, says:

“Early October sees a big influx of redwings, which constantly keep in contact with each other with a high pitched, drawn out ‘seep’ call. The bigger fieldfares are typically a couple of weeks later to arrive and are much more garrulous – ‘chacking’ argumentatively as they pass over.”

Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves throughout the county have already housed good numbers of these birds, including 500 redwings at Latterbarrow, near Witherslack, and a whopping 1,472 redwing and 3,320 fieldfare at Hutton Roof Crags Nature Reserve, near Kirkby Stephen.

Dubbs Moss Nature Reserve, near Cockermouth, is another stopping off point for thrushes and redwings have been ringed here for a number of years. The metal identification rings allow the birds to carry on as normal and if the birds are re-trapped or found dead they give valuable information about the movements of ringed species. Redwing ringed at Dubbs Moss Nature Reserve have later been found in the French Pyrenees and in Sweden.

These thrushes come to Britain to feast on a vast quantity of readily available food in the shape of berries and other fruit. Hedgerows and scrubby areas with hawthorn, blackthorn, rowan, holly and crab apple can quickly be stripped of fruit when hundreds of hungry thrushes arrive. In limestone areas in the south of the county, places like Whitbarrow attract redwing and fieldfare due to abundant yew and whitebeam trees, which have ripe fruit ready just in time for the arrival of these birds in October. Fruiting trees do well out of the relationship as their fruits are scattered far and wide in birds droppings – its no coincidence that most of the younger woodland trees at Dubbs Moss Nature Reserve are rowans!

You can attract thrushes to your garden – particularly as the winter wears on and food becomes scarce. Both birds like apples and any old and bruised fruit that you can throw onto the bird table or open ground could draw these birds in.

If you want to see these birds before the snow arrives, try the following nature reserves around the county: Latterbarrow, Eskmeals Dunes, Dubbs Moss, Smardale Gill, Hutton Roof Crags, Grubbins Wood and Whitbarrow. Visit


Story by Cumbria Wildlife Trust