As I walked home one evening I heard in the gloom above me high pitched notes; they came to my ears only occasionally and I could not see what produced them, but I knew that those short ‘seep’ calls issued forth from the bill of a bird called the Redwing. Britain’s smallest Thrush, and the most colourful; the Redwing has a rich nut-brown back and wings, distinct creamy stripes above and below its eyes, dark strings of dots run down its breast and most uniquely the sides of its breast and the underside of the wings are smudged a smoky paprika colour, giving it its name.
Turdus iliacus breeds on the continent (mostly Scandinavia) and in small numbers in northern Scotland, so it only shows itself to most of Britain in Winter and represents to Winter what the Swallow represents to Spring. So on that October evening on which I walked underneath the sound of the Redwing, those birds were freshly arrived from somewhere on the continent, migrating at night for safety and aiming to bury themselves deep in the countryside to enjoy the (relative) mildness and crops of wild berries. One is almost assured to come across a flock of these birds during a Winter walk in the country; and no wonder for it is estimated that over a million Redwings are present in Britain during the cold season.
So keep an eye out for these attractive Thrushes from now until next Spring, they are shy and often fly away at the sight of a human so stealth is the word when you want to get a close up view of the Redwing, also look out for the much larger and noisier Fieldfare, which it is often in company with.