Thrushes are members of the Turdidae family, and I think some of the loveliest, most understated of birds, and have – to my eye – a classic bird shape. They mostly eat invertebrates and fruit. In my painting ‘British thrushes’ I have illustrated all six species of thrush resident in the British Isles:
The redwing (Turdus iliacus) is the smallest of our thrushes and can be recognised by its white eye stripe and amazing flashy red armpits! They come to the British Isles every autumn from Scandinavia, where they spend the summer to breed. Yes, they fly all the way across the North Sea! You’ll see them chomping at hawthorn berries in the winter.
Like the redwing, the fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) is a winter migrant, coming to overwinter with us to escape the harsh Scandinavian winter. They hang out in large flocks in the countryside, and I think are immensely pretty!
The song thrush (Turdus iliacus) is my absolute favourite! In the spring, they produce the sweetest musical tune of repeating phrases. They are soft brown above and have gorgeous dark spotty underparts. They love to eat snails smashing them open on rocks to reveal the juicy flesh.
The mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) is the biggest thrush. They are much greyer than the song thrush and have a rounder belly.
The blackbird (Turdus merula) is probably the most familiar of British thrushes to us all, but don’t overlook his understated, handsome black costume and bright yellow beak and eyering. The old name for a blackbird is ouzel. Their melodious song is I think one of the most beautiful of all birds. If there was a heaven, surely the song of the blackbird would be the soundtrack?
The ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus) is a kind of mountain-dwelling blackbird with a fancy white scarfy-bib. It is still known in some places as the fell blackbird, hill blackbird, moor blackbird or rock ouzel. This is the only species of British thrush that I have yet to see.
When you visit the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum its a job to know where to look - at the marvellous exhibits? Or at the magnificent architecture? In this painting you'll spot a dodo, some dinosaur footprints, the swifts that nest in the tower, a dinosaur skeleton and so much more! My favourite bit is the frog in the jar. What's your's? The title comes from Charles Darwin's book 'The Origin of Species' in which he wrote of his theory of evolution by natural selection: "There is grandeur in this view of life..." The print is last one of a limited edition (of 4) hand-made drypoint tinted with watercolour - 450mm x 700mm.