Yesterday a big flock of birds that looked like thrushes landed in our back yard. They were especially interested in the vegetable garden plots, which are covered with rotting leaves and rotting apples for the winter. The thrushes may have been looking for insects under the leaves but, given that the ground is frozen right now, they were probably gorging themselves on apples.
Looking at my bird books, I think these are the thrushes called the fieldfare (Turdus pilaris). In French, that would be the grive litorne. They are related to, and in shape resemble, the European blackbird (le merle) and the North American robin (which is a thrush — the European robin or rouge-gorge is a completely different bird). Grives are prized game birds in France. I don't think I've ever eaten any though. It'another thing I'd like to try.
There's a saying in French: « Faute de grives, on mange des merles. » — a literal translation is: "Lacking thrushes, one eats blackbirds." In other words, you make do with what you've got. Beggars can't be choosers.
Grives litornes travel in big flocks, according to both the French and English birder guides, and in winter they are often seen feeding on apples and pears they find rotting on the ground. They come from Scandinavia and Russia, where they breed, and they have been expanding their territory into France over the past few decades.
I went out and looked this afternoon, and these birds have really done a number on the apples we scattered over the garden plots as well as the ones we put in a big compost pile out by the back fence. Many of the apples are hollowed out and even pecked until just little shreds are left. All that apple flesh going through the birds' digestive systems and ending up back on the ground will serve as good fertilizer in the spring.
The pictures above are ones I took with a zoom lens out of our bedroom window. I couldn't get any closer because the birds were spooked even when they saw me just looking out the window, many meters distant. I had to be stealthy and not move around too much so as not to scare them away.
There was no estimate for the boiler fuel pump in yesterday's mail. So there you go. Wait, wait, and wait some more. Anyway, this is just motivation for me to find another company to do our boiler maintenance and emergency service. Our current contract runs through July 1, so we have time to find another provider.
We figure our heating plant will be repaired just in time for the arrival of warmer weather.