Column: Offering a bounty of berries for our garden vistors

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As winter approaches there are fewer insects around for the birds to eat and so berries become an important food source.

The rowan tree in my front garden is almost denuded of leaves now, but the branches are heavy with bright red berries, ready to be eaten.

In fact, they have been looking ripe and ready to be eaten for a few weeks now, but it is only recently that the birds have shown much interest in them.

Maybe the recent cold snap has triggered something in their avian brains that tells them to feed up on berries.

A few days ago, I was watching the rowan tree and over the course of ten minutes saw three different bird species feasting on the berries. Firstly, a female blackbird, then a starling and then the tree was suddenly alive with Fieldfares.

Fieldfares and Redwings are Scandanavian thrushes that travel here each year to spend the winter in a slightly more congenial climate.

In previous years I have seen Redwings, but these were definitely Fieldfares.

They are similar to mistle thrushes and have a reddish-brown plumage with an ashy head and a blackish tail. They tend to stick together in groups.

I have seen my Fieldfare group a few times in the last few days, gorging on berries for a while and then flying off to take cover in a dense conifer hedge over the road.

It is good to see the rowan tree helping to sustain wildlife as well as protecting my household from witchcraft (so I’m told!). With their white spring blossom, attractive leaf shape, small overall size and pale bark, rowans are ideal trees for a small garden. I didn’t plant the rowan in my garden, it was already here when I moved in, but I am so glad a previous owner decided it was just what the garden needed.