Caught in the act…

That would be the Blackbird, on the Cotoneaster tree with a berry its mouth! I’ve spent ages trying to catch a berry in the mouth like this. Pity the light was poor but I’m still pleased with my capture.

Who eats the berries in your garden? Perhaps, like me, you have planted especially to feed the birds. What shrubs and trees would you recommend for attracting/feeding birds at this time of year?

Here in my small garden the only berries I have for the birds (at the moment) are on a fairly small tree. The RSPB chat about Birds and Berries here where they go on to say:

“The winter is a good time to consider planting fruit and berry bearing trees or bushes in the garden. As well as the many native berry-bearing species (including rowan, holly, whitebeam, spindle, dog rose, guelder rose, elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy), attractive shrubs like cotoneaster, pyracantha and berberis are especially good for a wide range of birds.

Berry and fruit bearing trees provide food for a range of insects and animals, too: hedgehogs, badgers, mice, squirrels and even foxes will all happily feed on them. All sorts of fruit are attractive to insects, and if you leave them where they fall in the late summer and autumn they will attract numerous butterflies to their syrupy goodness.

Fallen fruit can also provide birds with a cold-weather treat: pop some in the freezer, and save it for the winter bird table.”

Now, that’s interesting… I didn’t know hedgehogs would eat berries too. At the moment, we’ve a regular young hedgehog feeding up on crushed unsalted peanuts, dried mealworms and sunflower hearts. I am thrilled to be able to help it just now.

I’ve had my night cam out watching in the evening after seeing two hedgehogs visiting the ground bird feeders last week. That was a surprise sighting. I guess they are taking advantage of the late feeding opportunities to fuel their winter hibernation. Soon our temps will drop and we won’t see them again until Spring.

Pre blog I never considered the Ivy growing up and over my Pergola would flower and produce berries. Lol… call me a plants person… I know 😮

I planted the ivy Sulphur Heart (shown above) on a trellis along one length. I planted it purely as a wind break and sun shelter to be completely honest. I do prune it to encourage growth and keep it as a neat backdrop for the plants in the border in front of it. I was surprised when I started to see the odd looking ball shaped flowers it had.

As the Ivy ‘took hold’ on my pergola, pruning the higher growth became difficult and as a result more flowers were beginning to cover the top. Getting photos became tricky too but as I now know black berries may follow the flowers I am very keen to see them.

Back at the beginning of the month, another Ivy (shown above) was already ahead of the Sulphur Heart and fully in flower. This was a small, shiny dark leafed common ground covering one that I spotted growing (not planted by me) under my hedge. I pulled pieces up and started training it up the pillars of my Pergola. Gosh… it has grown some since and has had many flowers this year.

Taking a look out a bedroom window I could see the extent of flower coverage after spotting large numbers of insects visiting one sunny, blue sky day at the beginning of the month.

I caught some video footage from the ground level with my camera strongly tilted back on my tripod. I hoped we’d get another day like this where I would get up on a ladder with my video camera to get a closer look at the variety of insects that were feeding there. We didn’t… but the video below has caught enough of the feeding frenzy on the ivy flowers…

It’s wild, wet and windy here just now so maybe I’ll just lean out an upstairs window again to see if we have berries yet. If we do there will be lots and of great interest to the birds in the coming months. I’ll try to get up a ladder to get a closer look before we get snow and ice.

Now, I wonder if my garden birds will actually eat the ivy berries. Has anyone seen them do this? If so, which birds? I’m guessing it would be the Blackbirds and Thrushes 🙂

This post was written and published by Shirley at shirls gardenwatch in November 2011.

11 thoughts on “Caught in the act…

  1. What a great capture of the blackbird with it's bill full of berry. Don't you love to get action pictures? I know I love seeing them. That is a beautiful ivy the berries are a bonus. Here I have Hawtorn trees and beauty berry bushes that the birds just love. I also have holly and pyracantha They have already eaten all the berries. I won't see many Robins until spring.

  2. Hi shirl, I think ivy berries may be poisonous even to birds; but they'll know. That blackbird capture is stunning, you could make Christmas cards from it. I counted 5 different kinds of bees on the Arbutus today in a period of about 2 minutes! Christina

  3. Great photo. I'm sad to say I don't really have any berries in the garden. I know its something I should tackle because it's important to me that my garden is wildlife friendly. I do have a crab apple though that the blackbirds love. It and the ground are covered in little apples at the moment. I read somewhere that the birds prefer the apples when they have been frosted because the frost softens them.

  4. According to the RSPB "The dry pith of ivy berries contains nearly as many calories as Mars bars." No wonder wood pigeons stuff themselves with them!!!

    Our local beekeeper gets a late season honey from ivy flowers – it's rich dark and treacly!


  5. Wonderful photo of the blackbird, Shirley. I have never seen any birds eating the ivy berries. But I'm sure if it happens you will see it and let us know!

  6. It's only in the last couple of years that I have pruned the Ivy in my hedge less and been amazed at the variety of flying insects visiting.

    I think my visiting Hedgehog has finally decided to hibernate as the food has been untouched for four nights now.

    1. Know this article is from a while ago but found it a good read.

      What I will say is regarding Hedgehogs; most berries/fruit on bushes, hedges etc are poisonous to Hedgehogs. They do not have the “hardy” stomach that a fox does. Believe it or not they are quite delicate creatures. Also, please do not feed them calci/mealworms. These have zero nutritional value for Hedgehogs and in fact are bad for them, as are sunflower seeds.

      The best thing for Hedgehogs are cat/kitten biscuits that have high protein content and as little cereal content as possible (I’m currently using Harringtons chicken cat biscuits). Also, it’s good to leave some meat out as well, again, high protein (just ensure its brought in during daytime hours so flies dont get to it). I use Webbox chicken roll. You will find your Hedgehogs have their own opinion on foods haha. I’ve tried mine on a few different foods and the ones I use they like and seem to do them well.

      Avoid milk and fish and nuts.

      Always leave fresh clean water out for them. Try to keep slugs away from their food (copper). You can sprinkle kibble about the hedges in the garden when the weather is decent to encourage foraging.

      Best thing is planting plants and putting logs out that encourage diversity in insects. Us leaving food out for them is just to help out, their majority of diet should be from the wild.

      Trying to get the balance of planting that works for all wildlife can be a bit of a headache but with attention a balance can be found.

  7. Shirl! What a great photo of the blackbird with the berry in its mouth!! Wouldn't it make a great Christmas card? 🙂

  8. Hi Shirl,

    As far as I'm aware the Birds will eat Ivy berries – this is why they're so fantastic for wildlife and very much one of the top plants for wildlife gardens, as they bloom late in the year for the insects and produce the berries and also provide nice thick cover for animals to hide and nest in.
    I'd love to have one here but have no where suitable to plant one… We do however seem to have some creeping in from next door which I would like to have covering the horrible red-stained back fence, but I am worried that it'll then spread through my garden and beyond. Previous experience tells me this is likely to happen; years ago we had that big ivy on our outhouse and according to my neighbour who had lived nextdoor for 30+ years it started way down our street and she's watched it slowly move along! lol.
    However, having Blackbirds nesting in it, was well worth it imo.

    Back to berries for the birds; well they also like Pyracantha and Elder. We have both and the sparrows/pigeons go for the elder and BB's/Songies go for the Cotoneasters and Pyracanthas. Of course there's also Hawthorn, Blackthorn and such too.

  9. Hi everyone, I see some of you have had snow. We took a dusting overnight here. It isn’t lying so that’s good 🙂

    Lisa, it was a fun capture wasn’t it? Ooo… sounds like the birds have a great feast in your garden 🙂

    Christina, as said below, Ivy berries seems to be okay for birds. As you say, they will know anyway. The photo was fun trying to get. The bird kept disappearing behind the leaves. Wow… wonderful sightings on the bees 🙂

    wellywoman, Thanks, I should add more berry plants too. Actually I bought one the other day. Need to get it planted before snow returns. Had a covering here overnight. Interesting to hear about the crab apples. Funnily enough I find frosted apples a challenge for the birds here. I core them (core goes on ground) and push them on top of obelisks. I’ve watched them and they can’t break through very frosted apple skin. They opt for the white of the apple at the core. Its fun watching them spin the apples round as they go 🙂

    Celia, drat… that was the quote on their page I was looking for. I spotted that too… great comparison there. Thanks for adding it here. Interesting to hear about the honey too – brilliant 🙂

    Janet, thanks it was fun getting it. Do hope I get a capture on ivy feeding… love the challenge 🙂

    John, yes that seems to be the key to getting ivy flowers – less pruning. Yes, our milder weather has spoilt us a little on the hedgehog visits. My food was being taken so I knew we had visitors. Last night though temps dropped and we had snow. Don’t know if they came or not. Forgot to check the food and by the time I thought about it the birds were in the dishes. Ah well… will put food out tonight. Doubt they’ll be wandering about though. Pretty cold night, tonight 🙂

    Shady, Thanks, it was fun getting as I said. Yes, you’re right there. Doh…. and I’m all sorted with my cards written and ready for the post :-0

    Liz, that’s what I thought re the berries – now that is 🙂 I can’t agree more about the wildlife living and perhaps nesting in my Ivy. The leaves dropping down do drive me nuts at times. OH keeps suggesting we take it down but (like the ivy) I’m not for shifting on that one. I love this new extensive habit in the centre in my garden! I don’t know about growing Ivy up a fence, it might invade your borders. However, I just pull up any stragglers from my pillars and it isn’t a problem here. Thanks for adding the berry info. I lost my pyracantha (wrong place) Elder I am tempted by (don’t know if I have the space) and I planted a Hawthorn tree (but failed to water enough in first year). Should really check if its dead or not I suppose :-0

Leave a Reply