BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla)
On Christmas Eve my front door was open and I caught a glimpse of a bird I had never seen before sitting in the cherry tree. It was about the same size as a sparrow, but had a creamy grey breast and a brown cap, it wasn't part of the flock of chattering sparrows and flew off without visiting the feeder. I dug out the bird book and think it must have been a female (or juvenile) Blackcap.
According to the book some of these birds overwinter here, often visiting gardens and bird tables, but the majority arrive in April and leave by October. They are warblers, the males are greyish, browner above with little strong pattern except a dull black cap which is narrower and more peaked than that of a tit. Females have a brown cap and the juveniles more rufous ones, as the one I saw was a rich reddish brown it may well have been young.
Blackcaps spend much of their time in bushy undergrowth in in woods or gardens with trees.They can sometimes be seen in autumn feeding from honeysuckle or elderberry bushes. They nest in a bush or hedgerow and lay 5 eggs which hatch in 10-11 days. The young will fly 10-13 days later.
They eat mainly insects and berries.
Their song is rich and clear after a scratchy start, bursting into a rapid phrase of warbles, but also includes a hard 'tak' which, coming from a thicket or tree is usually the sign of one of the Sylvia warblers.