Spare a thought or a berry for the birds

14th January 2013

Snow today at Priory Country Park Bedford

First snow of the year in this part of the world, but there is still good wild edibles to be found.  Finding low growing ground plants and fungi can be a struggle if there is more than a dusting of snow but there is still stuff above ground. I  Managed to find a few Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna berries that the birds have so far missed and hadn’t gone soft and mushy and you only need a few handfuls to make a small amount of Hawthorn ketchup (recipe here).

Hawthorn Berries

Yesterday, spotted both Rose hips Rosa spp and Sloes Prunus spinosa that were still useable, so it’s certainly not too late to have a go at those most popular wild recipes Rosehip Syrup and Sloe Gin.


The berry crop in 2012 was quite variable for a variety of species.  Hawthorn seemed to have large amounts of berries in some areas but next to nothing elsewhere.  Blackberry Rubus fructicosus, Sloe and Elderberry Sambuca nigra  yields seemed down on previous years, certainly in the areas that I used, but again in some sheltered hedgerows I stumbled across the odd rich vein.

It seems that on the continent, berry and nut crops were particularly bad. This winter we have seen lots of Jays Garrulus glandarius arriving from the continent because of the acorns failing, Feildfare Turdus pilaris  and Redwing Turdus iliacus numbers in the UK are currently very high and we have seen the largest influx of Waxwings Bombycilla garrulus in 50 years, as the Rowan Sorbus aucuparia crop in Scandanvia failed.  This has resulted in whatever berries that were there, are now rapidly dissapearing.  The Waxwings appear to have finished off the last remaining Rowan berries, worked their way through the Hawthorns and are now having to turn their attention to Rosehips which normally are ignored by birds.

So if you do happen to go out collecting berries spare a thought for the wildlife.  Only take berries if they happen to be plentiful, and even then leave some for the birds.  If the cold weather continues their lifes will depend on them.

Kev Palmer

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