Hastings Winter Gardens

13th December 2009, Sunday

With the arrival of colder air the bird community in the Victorian gardens outside my flat window has been galvanised into activity. But what is also apparent after living here for three years is that the trees themselves take on a new significance at this time. The Limes and Horse Chestnuts are slowly growing their winter buds and at this time in the season the apparently bare branches take on a new attraction for some birds. This morning three Blackcaps appeared in the Limes and as in the previous winters they have been spending a lot of time gleaning from the buds of these trees. Presumably either feeding on a sugary secretion or on small invertebrates present. The Bluetits have also been more attentive to these branches. The Blackcaps have certainly just appeared here but whether having travelled far in response to the cold weather or having moved locally because of the development of the tree buds I do not know. They appear during the first colder weather in December every year.
Two days ago at midday a very small passage of winter thrushes was noted and since then a few Redwings have settled and are feeding on Holly berries here. The Blackbirds which a few days ago were rather skulking and subdued have become much more active and there is a lot of territorial chasing. One female repeatedly chases another female from a fruit-laden ornamental Japanese Crab Apple. They also chase off a small and rather unassertive Song thrush which is attempting to maintain its’ existence in this complex habitat. Some of the local Blackbirds were feeding on Cherry Laurel Prunus laurocerasus berries which have a toxic kernel – apparently. Presumably the flesh is digested and the seed passed out without doing harm to the birds.