Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Silver Birch & the Blackcap - A guest blog

As I started to write this blog at the end of March, I looked out of the window and saw in our Silver Birch a small brown bird. It was a Chiffchaff, and in all probability it had just arrived  from North Africa where it had spent the winter. For twenty minutes it fed on a mixture of catkins and small insects which it caught on the wing, and then - quite suddenly - it was off. At the beginning of April, another visitor arrived, in all probability from North Africa too. This one was a Blackcap - a small greyish bird with a black cap, its striking song cascading from several of the trees in and around our garden. He is still singing here today, and if he can attract a mate, he may even stay to nest. 

Male Blackcap - Image courtesy of
Click on image for larger version
And a few days after the Blackcap a third visitor arrived - a Willow Warbler. This one is likely to have come from sub-Saharan Africa. I never saw him but over several days he sang from the trees in and around our garden on the top of a hill and then, he too had gone. 

Every spring I am amazed by the ability of such tiny birds, all smaller than a Sparrow, to complete such lengthy journeys and also I am gratified to see our Silver Birch and other trees acting as a refuelling station for them.

Silver Birch near London Assembly Building
at Tower Bridge - winter - click for larger version
In winter similar migrations take place - from Scandinavia. Most winters a small flock of Redwing (a thrush with red underwings and which spends the summer in Finland or Scandinavia) flies around Forest Hill in search of berries such as the Hawthorn and Cotoneaster on which they gorge in our garden. And small finch-like birds from Scandinavia such as Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin have all put in a short appearances on the same Silver Birch that is so loved by our African summer visitors. The attraction of these trees is the food they offer - seeds, insects, and other small invertebrates. 

Together our trees - whether in park, garden or street - contribute to a larger ecosystem that benefits these and many other birds, of which the most remarkable for me are the long distance flyers such as the beautiful and not uncommon Blackcap.

A recording of the Blackcap's song can be found on the RSPB website here: 

It can be heard in my garden today - and maybe in yours too?

Stuart Checkley
Guest Blogger, from a garden somewhere in Forest Hill

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated.