Highland Diary

Autumn Harvest


Autumn Harvest, despite a relatively late spring and a sunless summer there has been a bumper Rowan berry crop. After a series of poor berry years, this autumn throughout the Highlands the Rowans were weighed down with bright red fruit. This year the autumn thrush migration was not going to pass us by as it had done for the last couple of years. Towards the middle of the month small flocks of migrating Redwings with a few Blackbirds in tow appeared. A week later the Fieldfares arrived in force aided by the easterly winds that persisted in the UK for most of October. Flocks of up to a thousand strong descended on the berry laden trees to refuel. Whilst photographing a flock of feeding birds I estimated that 30kg to 40kg were stripped from a large Rowan in the hour or so that I was present. Now at the end of the month most of the Rowans are stripped bare and the vast majority of the Fieldfares and Redwings have headed on south leaving only a few northern Blackbirds that will stay with us for the winter. A variety of finches also target the berries not for the fleshy outer part but the seeds within, frequently ending up with their bills and cheeks caked in the bright red pulp. Blackcaps too frequently target Elder berries whilst on migration. They appear mostly along the Scottish coasts but we see a few along with other warblers briefly passing through the garden. They are probably a part of a largely unseen passage of birds that use the Great Glen fault as an easy route between the east and west coasts. Given the unprecedented numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers and other Siberian migrants that have made it to the UK this autumn it is perhaps not too surprising that one appeared in the garden. Sadly it did not linger long enough to bring a camera to bear on it.