26 Sept 2022

Wild About Wildlife: Winter is coming Nuts, berries and birds

Wild About  Wildlife:

A little help for our winged-friends: During the winter months the natural food sources of fruit, berries, nuts and seeds have been depleted

I WAS busy shaking the long branches of the hazel tree. This had been pruned multiple times in the past and had sent up long arching branches. I had been keeping an eye out on the ripening hazel nuts along with several other creatures.

I planted these in small individual pots and will bring them on over the next few years. These will be handed out to schools and groups and I will also plant a few in my garden.

This is one of the best small trees as it supports an abundance of wildlife.

Birds will gather them up and bury them for a lean day. While the avian memory can stretch for a time, they always forget a few and if fruit gets a rub of the green they will grow into new trees.

Mice will also eat the nuts and if you carefully examine a nut you might see the marks where the mouse has gnawed open the nut. Red squirrels will wait till the nuts are fully ripe and store them as part of their winter larder.

Just up the road from me there is a resident red squirrel and I have often got a glimpse of him gathering a few nuts from the ground. He does not delay long and darts back across the road and up the tall ivy covered trees.

I have searched in vain several times from his drey. This is a large an obvious structure usually built around half way up a tree. I think that is must be located in inaccessible part of the woods that is on private land.

As I finished picking up the nuts I heard the calls of a pair of collared doves. They appeared a few days ago on the electricity wires and I had not seen them before in this location.

This species is continuing its colonisation of the urban areas and the rural villages and towns are the hardest and slowest places for the collared dove to reach.

They get their very adapt name from the narrow black collar on their neck and this contracts with their otherwise dull pinkish plumage.

While I sorted the nuts in the garden shed I heard a commotion from the elderberry tree. Most of the leaves have already been stripped away by the wind and the rain and there are only a few bunches of berries left.

A male blackbird was feasting on the berries and these berries are eaten first as they are soft and easy to digest. A female blackbird also arrived and now that the breeding season is over the blackbirds have little tolerance for each other.

A short chase took place along the branches and in the end it was the female who claimed the spoils. The male sulked in the undergrowth nursing his bruised pride with loud scolding calls.

Later on I went searching for walnuts and this involved a drive of around half an hour to the nearest tree. I was a few weeks later this year and most of the nuts had around been eaten by wildlife.

I also know that a local lady takes the nuts and using these in her recipes. I have got friendly with her over the years and once she even brought a delicious slice of cake topped with roasted and crushed walnuts.

I searched in the deeper grass and was very lucky to find three nuts that the birds had missed. These are now passing the winter snug in pots of leaf mould and I am hopeful that I will get a tree nest spring.

As I finished up I heard a song thrush singing. They always start around the last week in October and they will the gap of birdsong that is missing from the garden, hedges and woods.

The song thrush was singing across the road from the middle of a tall tree.

I crossed over to too see if I could spot the thrush but it got spooked at fly away. He uttered a loud alarm call that sounds like an old fashioned football rattle.

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