Thursday, 24 January 2013

Apples or Nuts? Town or Country?

The garden is well out of berries and natural fruit.. except the trusty Ivy berries which are BB (best before) end of February.  So how to attract Blackcaps and other welcome, bonus birds to the feeders?

Male Blackcap takes to the nuts (Shay Connolly)

Plenty of garden birdwatchers on Facebook pages are reporting Blackcaps about now, on the nut feeders and the now classic "apple on cane", or spear or whatever sharp object is available.  You are unlikely to miss them, they are quite aggressive about the feeders. Another correspondent in Sandymount, Dublin 4, had his first Blackcap, a male, and it was apparently partial to the Brennans Bread,.. me too, any chance of a packet of Tayto with that!!

Sadly, despite a fairly constant supply of food in my garden, to attract all small birds, though I'm a bit slow on the Apples, I have never recorded a wintering Blackcap in this acre plus garden in rural Wicklow, over 5 winters now.  

Female Blackcap: no berries on the Cotoneaster..apples are ok! (Bill Quinn)

You may be surprised then to hear that Blackcaps are regular summer visitors to the same garden, visiting in late April, advertising with their nervous, rushed song, fresh from Africa and the song is heard throughout the summer and finished off with a pre migration flourish in August and September, with a display of active feeding on a feast of juice form the Elder berry crop.. 

So I have (perhaps crudely), deduced that my summer population of garden Blackcaps, that winter in Africa, are country birds, and our wintering population (northern European Blackcaps) are townies, when in Ireland, preferring the slightly warmer town and suburban habitats in often very cool winter conditions..

So, no Blackcaps in a rural Wicklow garden, with 30 species recorded so far this winter.. anybody have a similar experience or evidence?

Male Blackcap gets in on the act (Bill Quinn)

1 comment:

  1. After 5 years with no winter Blackcaps to my very rural garden, I finally got my first winter visitor before Christmas. It only stayed a couple of days feeding on the fat balls and ignoring the apples on a spike I put out hopefully every year.