During the recent cold and snowy spell, the birds have been very grateful for any food left out in our gardens. Fallen apples prove very attractive to several species and rail travellers may have noticed the blackbirds and fieldfares feeding on the fallers beneath the apple tree at the east end of the station platform.
Collecting and storing fallen apples in autumn means that through the winter you can stick them on the ends of twigs in garden bushes or hedges which makes them easy to access for those birds that will normally avoid ground feeding.
They are proving particularly attractive to overwintering blackcaps. These neat grey birds, with a black (male) or chestnut (female) cap, are the size of a goldfinch and worth looking out for, if you feed your garden birds. They are far easier to see now amongst the bare branches than in the spring, when they are more often heard than seen as they sing hidden in the foliage. I have a pair of blackcaps that are regulars in my garden this winter, though the male is dominant. Indeed, on some days I had noticed that very little food was being taken from the feeder. I then saw the male sitting in the nearby hedge, and every time another bird attempted to visit the feeder, he flew out and shooed them off. He seemed to do this for hours on end for a couple of days, but has now reverted to a more collaborative approach. Perhaps he was just being so protective while it was really cold.
By Andrew Graham
Photo: Barn owl
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