Marmalade & Murmurations

One day it’s snow turning to sleet, the next all sunshine and birdsong. It must be Spring. Or at least a seasonal sampler. Even more than making bread once a week I like to help make the yearly supply of Seville orange marmalade. Kim likes to add molasses and a dash of whisky for good measure. Reaching the right setting temperature on the thermometer seems to take for ever but once there the sticky sumptious smelling concoction is ready then it’s ladled into jars, sealed and labelled in a happy rush. Whether in huge flocks of thousands or in smaller gatherings of dozens or hundreds, a murmuration of starlings is a spectacle that enthralls us all, especially at this time of year. A few days back one mini-gathering over our field caught my attention and gave me a real surprise. The wheeling restless flight included fieldfares, roughly on a portion of 3 starlings to every fieldfare. They seemed completely companionable, with both species on landing rapidly foraging and some even taking dips in surface rainwater. Fieldfares are thrushes, and arrive in great numbers from northern Europe to overwinter in the UK. Meanwhile, on the garden feeders, goldfinches have arrived and made their determined presence felt amongst the tits, sparrows and chaffinchs who make up the bulk of the resident population. The colourful goldfinch is one of those species whose numbers are increasing in this country and are agile, adaptable seed eaters.

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