We may all be stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our garden wildlife. Ireland’s Wildlife contributor Albert Nolan shares his recent encounters with a resident blackbird.
For the last few days, I have been watching a beautiful male blackbird in the garden. He arrives around the same time every day, flying up from the wooded valley that runs away from my house.
I am not sure if my garden forms part of his territory or he is just visiting for a quick meal. We think our green spaces belong to us but at this time of the year birds and other creatures establish summer breeding territories that span hedges, gardens and streams.
He is a mature male with a glossy black plumage, with an orange beak and an orange ring around his eye. I don’t see many females but they are a dull brown colour and they could be already on the nest. Immature blackbirds are also dull brown. This is effective camouflage for their perilous first year and many won’t see their second summer.
His first stop is to search for worms in the muddy patches that have been created by my budding gardeners. They have no interest in learning about planting but mud I suppose is one of the best natural education.
Next, he will hop under the fat ball feeder and devour any food scattered on the ground. This is high in calories and males need all the energy they can get at this time of the year. I also leave out a sliced apple and he is quite partial to a banana as well
If you have bruised fruit putting it out for the birds adds another item to their natural diets. You can also hang it from a string or stick onto a branch.
Over the last few years, we have planted several fruit trees like apple, pear and cherry. These complement the native berry species like mountain ash, hawthorn and elderberry. The latter species was a big hit with the blackbirds last autumn.
Blackbird will also nest in your garden, school or park and putting up an open-fronted nest might entice a pair in.
My own male has had several lucky escapes. Distracted by a rival or a female the house cat has come within inches of catching him, even though we have added several bells to his collar.
In the evening we are rewarded by his fabulous song and a blackbird in full flight is surely one of the best songsters we have in Ireland.