In early autumn, from late July onwards, Blackbirds take to the shrubs and bushes, often appearing clumsy on outer branches, laden with fruit. They are attracted to the procession of ripening berries on offer, especially on our native small tree, Rowan or Mountain Ash. Berries of Elder, Whitebeam and Hawthorn, are also popular choices in our garden, but it is Rowan that provides an early autumn berry boost.
This autumn, the Rowan berries are in abundance and still available into early
October: they don’t always last that long especially in rural situations where there are more birds foraging hedgerows and woodland. I have seen Rowan berries in St Stephens Green, in the centre of Dublin in December and January, attracting a roving flock of exotic Waxwings who routinely strip remaining berry stocks and quickly move on.
Right now, it’s Starlings that have joined the Rowan fest. boisterous flocks, they sometimes knock as many to the ground as they devour. With autumn moving steadily on, the drop in night-time temperatures and shortening hours of daylight, you can expect more berry eaters in the countryside.
Winter flocks of thrushes, including Blackbirds, Redwing and Fieldfare all arrive on our shores in October, migrants from Scandinavia, avoiding harsh winter conditions and availing of our moist and mild climate.
In Northern Europe, rowan is one of the most important bird fruits, even known as Vogelbeer or Bird-Berry in Germany. A shortage or failure of the Rowan crop in some years, sparks an irruption of birds like the Waxwing, as well as Fieldfares. Some or all of these will remain in Fenn Scandinavia if the berry crop persists.
Later in winter, when fruit options dwindle, make sure you put out any bruised fruit and windfalls you may have, they are well worth storing in a cool, dry place and will be greatly appreciated by the birds that have journeyed to our shores to spend the winter.