Friday, January 25, 2013
Caroline had invited me to watch one of the two female Blackcaps that regularly visit her coconut suet feeder. Females have a brown cap; the males have the black cap which gives this species its name. Here's a bit of footage of the bird feeding:
Before the 1960s you wouldn't see a Blackcap in the UK during the winter. They were all in southern Europe or northern Africa soaking up the sun. But because Caroline, and thousands like her, put out a veritable banquet of tasty bird food during the winter months, some Blackcaps have decided that they would prefer to spend their winters here, despite the cold.
And here's the thing: the Blackcaps in your garden now (and the owner of one garden in a mild southerly part of the Isle of Wight has counted an amazing 9 individuals visiting his bird table!) are not the Blackcaps that were singing in your local countryside last Spring and Summer, but almost certainly originate from Germany and north-eastern Europe!!
Whatever the original reason was for this switch in wintering grounds by these continental birds, it has resulted in a very interesting phenomenon. With the UK and other wintry countries being closer to their summer breeding grounds, they arrive back before the sun-loving migrants and pair up and breed with other winter-loving birds, a process that may very well result in not one, but two separate species at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Amazing, or what!!