Bird of The Month

Blackcap may seem a strange choice for December's 'bird of the month', as it is better known as a common summer breeding visitor to the UK, but more and more of these birds are spending their winters here. Research leads us to believe that the winter visitors are a different population to those that arrive in the summer.
The winter birds originate from east ern Europe; they can survive our milder conditions, so it makes sense for them to stop here rather than making the longer journey to Africa like our summer birds do. The south/south-east of the country has the highest numbers of blackcaps, but they can be found anywhere - I had one male blackcap in my own garden last year.
Blackcaps like to feed on berries and fruit such as apples, but they also like suet balls and will cling to the side of feeders to eat them.

1 Blackcap (male): Male blackcap, photographed at my old feeding station during winter.

2 Blackcap (female): Female blackcaps have brown caps and love to feed on berries and fruit.

Bird Photography tip

As mentioned in the main article, approaching wader flocks is possible, but it requires a careful, slow approach - which applies to many species that you are trying to get close to.
Firstly, it's important not to walk straight towards your subject; if someone walked straight at you at a quick pace, you would immediately be alarmed - birds feel the same way.
Arriving on a beach where there is a small group of feeding birds, watch and see which way they are moving. Keeping a safe distance, walk with them slowly, angling yourself towards them. Try to position yourself slightly in front of them and then wait and see what they do. Species such as sanderling, dunlin, knot and turn stone will often totally ignore you, walking straight past and continuing to feed.

1 Walking alongside approachable birds is the best way to get close to them; this knot carried on feeding as I walked with it on the beach at West Kirby, Cheshire.

2 Turnst one can be one of the most approachable shorebirds. I walked ahead of this bird, which was part of a feeding group, and waited for it to run past to continue feeding.

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