Female Blackcap in winter.

Throwback Thursday travels back to Cheshire in the early 1990s. This is a female Blackcap feeding on a windfall apple in the winter. Sometimes known as the Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) it is a member of the Warbler family. The male Blackcap has a black cap on its head, the female a brown cap.

They were traditionally a summer visitor, arriving in the U.K. to breed. However, in the 1980s a few birds were being recorded in gardens in the winter. In the early 1990s when this photo was taken they were still uncommon in the winter. A few years later they were becoming common. If I recall correctly this bird was reported to the county recorder for inclusion in that years county bird report.

Since then numbers have continued to increase. Research has shown that the winter birds are different than the ones that breed in the U.K. in the summer. The wintering Blackcaps arrived from Germany. Isotope analysis has also shown that the German birds wintering in the U.K. tend to mate with other Blackcaps that wintered in the U.K. when back in Germany for the summer.

Another interesting point is that Blackcaps prefer mature deciduous woodland for breeding in the summer while the birds that arrive from Germany to spend the winter prefer gardens. It’s thought that the birds started wintering in the U.K. because of the milder winters and the availability of food with people feeding birds in their gardens.

Wintering female Blackcap.