A berry big feast for birds

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

ANY walk through the woods and lanes of the north west ex­hibits a real gallery of colour at the mo­ment as au­tumn leaves and berries line your route.

Of course berries are not just there for colour they are a vi­tal source of food for many of the birds that spend win­ter in the UK.

But­ter­flies and cater­pil­lars con­tinue to feed on black­ber­ries when sum­mer pushes on into au­tumn. But­ter­flies have gone for 2014 as the cold snaps in. Other in­sects like wasps tend to head for sug­ary black­ber­ries too. A cou­ple of years ago I got some close-up photographs of a wasp com­pletely ig­nor­ing me while it squelched into a black­berry.

If you are pick­ing black­ber­ries you should al­ways leave some be­cause a whole range of birds love them too – robin, thrush, jay, crow and lots of war­blers and finches.

Hedge­hogs, mice and voles also de­pend on the fruit of the black­berry bush, so a lot of life sur­rounds each and ev­ery plant.

Don’t be sur­prised to see angry thrushes around hawthorn bushes as win­ter goes on. I have seen skir­mishes as th­ese won­der­fully mu­si­cal birds roll up their sleeves and get ready to fight off in­vaders as berries be­come scarce later in win­ter. Smaller birds also have to keep out of the way as the thrushes de­fend their larders.

If you have hawthorns near to your home you will be­gin to see red­wing and field­fare, which have spent all of spring and sum­mer in open fields com­ing in a lit­tle closer to homes. Red­wing look sim­i­lar to song thrushes while field­fares have a look of mis­tle thrushes.

The red­wing does have red un­der its wing and the field­fare looks more dis­tinc­tively spotty. They all be­long to the same fam­ily.

Hawthorns are also popular with black­birds, star­lings and chaffinches.

They are great places to stay in win­ter with some mam­mals and am­phib­ians hi­ber­nat­ing inside the bushes and birds roost­ing on the branches.

Some berries, like holly, be­come harder and less edi­ble pro­vid­ing food for just the birds.

Of course all this eat­ing and sur­viv­ing through win­ter is great for the trees and bushes. A bird will eat a seed and pass the seed through its body and dump it some­where else.

Chem­i­cals at­tached to ju­niper seeds are re­moved by pass­ing through a bird mak­ing it then grow bet­ter. Look how many bushes grow close to fences where birds have ob­vi­ously perched.

Over the past few years we have been see­ing lots more waxwings com­ing over from Europe be­cause of the num­bers of berries around in the north west.

Re­tail parks which plant bushes on their car parks for win­ter colour are prime spots for th­ese beau­ti­ful vis­i­tors.

In a re­cent col­umn I mis­tak­enly said that spi­ders were in­sects. This was a slip of the pen as they are, ob­vi­ously, arach­nids. In­sects have six legs and spi­ders have eight. In­sects have three body seg­ments and spi­ders have two. To be­come a mem­ber of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side go to www.lanc­swt.org. uk or call 01772 324129.

●● Hawthorn bushes are a hive of ac tiv­ity as win­ter ap­proaches

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