Winter Thrushes – Alison Lomax

The recent cold and wintry weather has brought in some winter visitors from Europe. We have a number of rowan trees in our garden and this year they produced a decent crop of berries. The past week has seen a few Mistle thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare arrive. One particularly aggressive Mistle thrush was chasing off anything that landed in one of the trees, hoping to keep the crop to itself. Time to break out the big lenses!


I could have used the car as a hide but decided to go for the more comfortable and warmer option of shooting from the bathroom window. This also gave a better vantage point that was more on a level with the birds. The thrushes are quite flighty and easily disturbed. They didn’t stay in one place for too long, regularly flying off to the safety of some nearby conifers.

I started off with a 300mm prime lens but it just wasn’t getting in close enough so added on 1.4 converter. It wasn’t practical to set up a tripod so had to stick with using a mono-pod. The light was difficult as the sun was almost directly behind the trees so it was a combination of looking out for bird activity and checking the light conditions.


As the week progressed more and more birds kept arriving and as the berries decreased they were forced to come to the trees closest to the house. Luckily, on the final day, there was some cloud cover which resulted in some lovely diffuse light. (By this time I also had permission to borrow the 500mm lens which was definitely an improvement!).

Shooting on motor-wind I kept thinking that I must have enough by now but then something else would turn up or there would be lots of wing-fluttering needed to access the remaining few berries. In the end I filled up my memory card (around a thousand images). Just as well too as it turns out that many of them were not sharp, tricky holding a big lens still.

If you aren’t familiar with the thrushes, the Mistle thrush is similar to a song thrush but larger and with more streaky spots. The Redwing is smaller with a distinctive eye stripe and that definitive red coloration under the wings. My favourite are the Fieldfares. Similar in size to the Mistle thrush, they have a grey head and back, with a black tail and rich brown plumage on the wings. Their breast and side flanks are speckled, as other members of the thrush family.

Some other visitors included Blackbirds, Starlings and even a beautiful male Bullfinch. Unfortunately, all images of the latter were consigned to the bin being totally blurred.

Still, kept me fully occupied for a morning and lots more deleting still to be done.

Unfortunately, there are no berries left for any Waxwings that might turn up, which I live in hope of seeing one day.