Monday 18 November 2013

The bushes are thick with berries of many kinds, and with birds of many kinds eating them. Inspired by Africa Gómez' very interesting piece on birds and berries yesterday in her blog on bird behaviour The Rattling Crow, I went around photographing them.

It was no surprise to see a Wood Pigeon eating pyracantha berries ...

... or to find a Blackbird eating the berries of the yew bush between Peter Pan and the Italian Garden.

There was also a Great Tit picking the outside off hawthorn fruit so that it could eat the seeds inside, which is normal behaviour for tits, which are not interested in the sweet pulp of the fruit. But then it flew into the yew and started doing the same thing there -- sorry for the poor quality of this photograph, which was taken in poor light through a mass of twigs.

I had read that the outside of a yew berry is edible but the seed is poisonous, and that this doesn't bother fruit-eating birds such as thrushes because the seed goes straight through them undigested, and in this way the tree spreads its seeds over a wide area. This bird seems not to have read the book; it is certainly able to digest seeds as they form a normal part of its diet. Maybe yew seeds are only toxic to mammals, not birds. There are birds that can eat substances quite poisonous to us: for example, pigeons can eat deadly nightshade because they have a high tolerance of atropine.

The only berries that are not getting much attention are those of the rowan trees on Buck Hill. There are still no autumn migrant thrushes to eat them. A pair of our resident Song Thrushes were singing very quietly at each other in the Flower Walk -- what ornithologists call 'sub-song'.

There was a fine view of the Tawny Owls on their usual branch in the beech tree. They both turned round to stare at me.

And the male Little Owl also came out to his usual place in the chestnut tree, despite the chilly grey day.

At the Italian Garden, a young Great Crested Grebe was pestering its father for food, and getting no response at all, not even a peck to chase it away.

It is now just as large as its parents and able to fly and fish for itself, so they have finished with it. After a while it gave up and went hunting, poking about in the fallen leaves on the bottom of the Long Water.

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