Mark Cocker

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Photo of the Month

A great new adventure began in 2012 when I acquired a little over five acres of neglected fen woodland on the banks of the River Yare. The intention over the next years is to upraise its wildlife potential through practical work and with the support of others, but especially my friend, poet Matt Howard. Blackwater Blog is a way of recording these slow-won achievements and celebrating this glorious patch of wild Norfolk.


The big freeze this month has triggered fascinating bird behaviour in our garden. I put out a mass of old apples for the thrushes and they in turn have fought for the right to control them. Firstly - for 2 whole days - it was a Fieldfare (top left) who comandeered the precious supplies. Then it was the more usual feisty Mistle Thrush (bottom right) that took over the life-saving fruits. Both of the alpha birds have perpetually chased away smaller contenders trying to share the bonanza. Finally the dominant mistle thrush has had to combat one of his or her own and the feathers have been flying. What is so remarkable about this behaviour is that it escaped ornithologists' attention pretty much until Barbara and David Snow wrote about it in their wonderful book Birds and Berries in 1988. Eric Simms' otherwise excellent New Naturalist British Thrushes had appeared ten years earlier but failed even to mention it. The Snows pointed out that it was actually spotted by an observant Cornishman, William Borlase, who had described Mistle Thrushes defending holly trees in 1758. Remarkably no one followed up for more than two centuries. If any of you has observed or have recollections or an account of Missie or Fielfdare behaving in this way, I would love to hear about it for my next book. You can contact me here.

© Mark Cocker 2013