Blackcaps & other birds – February 2017

Winter Blackcap Survey – update January 2017

December and January reports of over- wintering Blackcaps have come from the following locations in our study area: Benson Street, Birdwood Road, Chesterton Hall Crescent, Chesterton Road, Gough Way, Hertford Street , Huntingdon Road, Lovell Road, Tavistock Road, Union Lane and the area between Eden Street and City Road. They have been seen feeding on apples, mistletoe berries, honeysuckle berries and Mahonia nectaries. Two males were feeding on mistletoe berries in a crab apple? tree in Huntingdon Road and were defending their berry supply from Blackbirds. (A nearby apple tree was so heavily infested with mistletoe that the host tree had died!)

Female Blackcap – “browncap”

Male Blackcap defending a mistletoe berry supply from Blackbirds

My thanks for these records to Colin Anderson, Chris Brown, Carole Josephson, Duncan MacKay, Liz Scott, a Cambridge Bird Club member whose name I didn’t catch and myself. Please keep the records coming in to – all records received will also be sent to the Cambridgeshire Bird Recorder.

The Waxwing influx has not yet happened. The large flocks that featured in Winter Watch in Sheffield, for example, have not arrived down south in such numbers. The cold weather has forced Redwings and Fieldfares into City gardens to feed on berries and crab apples so the supply for Waxwings is dwindling.

Fieldfare in a City garden

 The Fisher Lane Waxwings have moved on

The breeding season has started! Collared Doves began a spectacular range expansion from central Asia in the 1930’s. They first bred in the UK at Sherringham in Norfolk in 1955, in Cambridgeshire at Littleport in 1961, they were present in Sedley Taylor Road in 1966, Shetland in 1968 and have now colonised from the Sinai to St Lucia. The reason(s) for this expansion are not really known but they appeared to have followed intensive lowland cereal production from east to west. A farm site in the north of our project area has, in the recent past, attracted over 300 birds to a field of harvested maize stubble. One reason for their success maybe their reproductive rate: they can nest all year round but they rarely lay more than two eggs per clutch. Despite the recent very cold period a pair is sitting on eggs in a neighbouring Eucalyptus tree.

Collared doves in Chesterton in the rain!

Bob Jarman February 2017