A Blackcap is a bird and an occasional visitor to my garden which I have started to see again over the last week following quite a break. Before this week my last garden sighting was in June although during the summer I could regularly hear a pair nearby, I think they may have been nesting in my neighbours Sycamore tree.

I tried very hard, but I was unfortunately unable to get a good picture of my garden visitor. The ‘problem’ is that they do not feed from the feeders but spend their time in the hedges, particular Ivy, as explained further below.

It called a Blackcap, for fairly obvious and apparent reasons. Although interestingly only the males have a black head. The females look similar but have a brown head.

It can be seen all year round in the Paris region, also in the UK, although there are many more during the winter. This is because the large population that spends its Summer in the North and East of the continent, avoid the cold winter weather by moving South and West. Previously they would have headed down to say Spain but with the warming climate more and more don’t head that far. Hence more for us to see.

They are here to feed, and in particular they like fruits and berries. Specifically in my garden they are feeding on the berries below, especially the ivy.

As a plant ivy gets a bad press as it is quite aggressive, fast growing and if left over a long time can even damage buildings.  But, like all of the above plants, it fruits during winter and these fruits provide a really important food source used by many birds. Winter visitors such as Redwings and Fieldfares, in addition to Blackcaps, really need this valuable food source.

One of the biggest issues for the availability of this food is not that there is a shortage of say Ivy, but many people cut it back at the start of Winter, removing most of the berries. We do this as we tend to like nice tidy gardens and hedges but it is not good news for nature. Much better to make the pruning of the bushes at the end of winter or early spring when other food sources are coming available for the birds.

So a good way to attract these really interesting birds is to plant winter fruity bushes in the garden. And then to not be a tidy gardener and let them fruit throughout the winter.

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