On the Wild Side: Golf Balls and Redwings

October is the month that redwings, the smallest member of the thrush family, start arriving in the UK from Scandinavia and Russia. They travel 800km across the North Sea to spend autumn and winter here feeding on fruit, berries and earthworms before heading back in spring to their northern breeding grounds.

A year ago I was very lucky to spot these delightful birds in a place I least expected. 

During one of my daily permitted walks during the first lockdown, I came across a gate in a fence and cautiously opened it to find a vast grassy landscape dotted with mature trees and small ponds. When I saw sand bunkers I realised it was a golf course. As no one was playing on the fairway, I wandered around past discarded balls and plastic tees relishing the space and lack of people. Someone had written the letters ‘NHS’ with a stick in the sand.

A narrow path skirted the edge, winding through woodland, where another gate revealed a large area of scrubland filled with yellow gorse, brambles and many species of wildflowers and butterflies. Although there was a busy main road and large supermarket nearby, I heard birdsong that I wasn’t familiar with. 

This became a regular walk and I always came prepared with binoculars, a bird book and camera. I saw many species, including goldfinches high up the Wych elm trees; woodpeckers, and the plucky little redwings. I also found other ways of getting to my secret nature reserve without crossing the golf course for when things got back to normal.

Last year it felt like my world had shrunk but I believe my knowledge of nature expanded and I look forward to welcoming back the redwings to Twickenham this month.

Cathy Cooper

Twickenham Wildlife Photographer


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