Hope you all had a great Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Over the festive break I’ve been watching the birds in my garden. There was nothing out of the ordinary; apart from a Greenfinch spotted two days running, which is a rare sight these days. There was also a mixture of Tits, Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and a charm of Chaffinches on a daily basis. A Fieldfare was another unusual visitor.

I also saw a female Blackcap, alone on the fat ball feeder. These rather plain looking warblers can often be seen in the winter months, as birds from Northern Europe migrate to the UK to over winter in the milder conditions, rather than migrating south to the Mediterranean. While our native birds head south for winter, these winter migrants can often be seen on feeders in gardens. They are known for not sharing the feeders and will chase other birds away while they are trying to feed. They will even defend feeders if they think the regular food is worth fighting for. As their name would suggest, the male has a black cap and the female has a chestnut-brown cap, but otherwise they look the same. They are about the size of a Chaffinch, but have a slender, dark beak. Juveniles have a chestnut-brown cap, which can make them hard to distinguish from the females. They can sometimes become regular visitors, especially in colder weather, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your feeders.

So far, the winter has been a bit strange weather wise, from snow and haw frosts to mild sunny days, but we are now going through another unsettled period with winter storms crossing the country with a vengeance! Whatever the weather, enjoy the wildlife around you.

Male Blackcap - Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com)

You may or may not be aware that our Big Garden Bird Watch is taking place at the end of January on the 24th and 25th, and you can register on our web site now to take part. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to register before the event, you can still do your count and then summit your results on our web site afterwards (see link below). Keep your feeders topped up as natural food will be diminishing by now. Also try to keep your birdbaths topped up, or defrosted depending on the weather, and take a look at our on line shop for food, feeders and birdbaths to encourage the bird life into your garden.