CBWPS Blackcap Sightings 2017/18

Please note – there was a hope to carry out a survey of wintering Chiffchaffs/Blackcaps and Crests in winter 2018/19, but this never transpired. Blackcap sightings as part of your normal bird records should instead go to the news team or to the BTO’s Birdtrack …


This page is intended to list Blackcap sightings and behaviour observations in Cornwall this winter. Sightings can be sent to the normal bird-news@cbwps.org.uk address or to the specific blackcaps@cbwps.org.uk if you prefer (the latter especially if you are making comments on behaviour etc). This is not an official CBWPS survey.

Hopefully this will be an interesting project for those who regularly encounter Blackcaps, encourage extra sightings, provide insights into Blackcap goings-on, and provide some ideas to explore in further studies. (Please scroll down to the bottom of the page for some ideas of things to look out for).

(This is not the page on the BTO colour-ringed Blackcap project currently being run by the BTO and Universities of Exeter and Oxford. For more on that survey and to report colour-ringed birds see HERE)

January 2018 – 

For most recent sightings in January, please scroll down to the bottom of the page. Sorry it’s a bit jumbled at the moment!

Jan 9th, John Atherton of Mousehole writes –

Blackcaps have been regular visitors to our garden feeding area, (between Mousehole and Paul), over the last few years.  Usually only of one sex at a time.

Currently we have a female blackcap visiting daily, feeding on fat balls and our ground feeder which has porridge oats and sultanas.

Jan 9th – On Sunday 7th an estimated 10 blackcaps feeding on ripe ivy berries at Quarry Road Car Park in central Falmouth. (D Collins)

Jan 7th, Jo Ramsey of Wadebridge writes –

We have had a female blackcap in the garden on the fat ball feeder and in a feeding cage on the ground. She hasn’t shown any aggressive behaviour towards any other birds. She has been around for the last week.

Jan 2nd, Marlene Rouncefield of St Ives writes –

First sighting of male on 27th November then again on 2nd December. Since the 10th December has been seen every day bar 2, feeding on fat in the back garden and another appeared on the 20th in the front garden feeding on sunflower hearts. Today the front garden male has been joined by a female. Both males are un-ringed but not sure about the female.

Blackcaps are regular each year. They  chase most other birds away from their food but seem to be wary of sparrows.

Jan 1st, Christine Johnson of Trevone Crescent, St Austell writes –

We are enjoying watching a pair of blackcaps who are regularly using the feeders in our garden. They are not obviously ringed. 

Jan 1st, Tim Pinfield writes –

Just a short note to say that yesterday I saw four Blackcaps all at the same time, so it appears that I have more than I thought. They were all unringed, two males and two females.

December 2017 –

31st Dec, Simon Van Hear of Berkeley Cottages, Falmouth writes –

2m Blackcap fighting in Dracenas.

30th Dec, David Grose writes

Today for a week now I have a male Blackcap visiting my garden (pic) –

27th Dec, E Mayhew in Lostwithiel writes –

Lostwithiel private garden 1 x male blackcap on fatball feeder lunchtime.

26th Dec, Paul Freestone writes –

9+ Blackcap on Draceana Avenue, Falmouth on the 24th. Feeding on dracena berries (the palm-like plants) with Starlings. Lots of chasing and aggressive behaviour between both sexes.The ones at the rear of the station are feeding on Ivy berries. As are the ones in my garden (in Connor Downs). I’ve colour-ringed 7 up to now. And at least four unringed still around.

From Twitter –

Tuesday 21st:

From Chris Morris in Mawnan Smith:

Single male seen in our garden over last two days feeding on sultanas that we usually put out for our resident blackbirds and robin.

From David Collins in Constantine:

At least one blackcap roosts each evening in a neighbours garden here in Constantine and is heard calling just before dark.

Today there were both a male and female in a flowering Camelia in our garden. I have noticed this week that blue tits are often pecking at the open flowers, and today the male blackcap at least was doing the same. They are not taking petals off, and I suspect they are finding nectar deep in the flower. At least that is where they are pecking.

Tuesday 20th:

From Tim Pinfield in Trenarth Lane, Constantine:

Just to confirm to you that we have a male /Blackcap, unringed, that visits our feeders every day, feeding on sunflower hearts..

It can be heard most evenings at dusk giving that characteristic Tchack call before it goes to roost. Blackcaps are regular winter visitors to the garden (only the one so far this winter as above) and I have often heard one ”subsonging”as early as late January and into February on sunny days. Full song is heard in March and I have often wondered whether these birds are

  • (a) wintering birds from Eastern Europe tuning up before they migrate
  • (b) birds that have come from the south (I have come across many wintering in south France where my parents used to live so they have not had to come far) and stayed on
  • (c) early arrivals from the south starting to set up territories.

If you would like to be updated on Blackcap presence or behaviour here I would be happy to contact you occasionally.

Blackcaps are regular breeders here in the summer with at least three pairs in the garden and environs. They usually bring off two/three young each pair annually.

From Dave Allan in Torpoint:

I have a pair in my garden on the feeders and apple.
They have been here since mid November and in the garden everyday
I’ve had them at least 3 years now.

From E Mayhew in Lostwithiel:

One male and one female sporadically visiting feeders since end of November. Preference is for feeders hanging from Olive tree filled with blue tit mix from Trago and for fat balls and suet slab. No occasions of conflict or fighting with other birds. A solitary male blackcap was found moribund in early November and presumed to have succumbed as not seen again. 

BTO/UoE/UoO colour-ringed Blackcap survey update a second bird carrying a data-logger was recorded in Falmouth in the middle of last week (c13th December). Keep those eyes peeled for colour-ringed birds!

Week 11 -17th December: CBWPS received reports of 39 birds from 17 sites, max 6 from Port Issac

Sunday 17th, Falmouth: 1m Blackcap in gardens behind Killigrew Street. (D Chaney) Briefly seen perched in bare branches, then flying to Ivy, displaced a hidden Robin when it did so.

Sunday 17th, Veryan: We have had several sightings of a single male blackcap in our garden today – we are in Veryan, Cornwall, TR2 5PR. (N Knight)

Saturday 16th, Newlyn, Sandy Cove: 1m Blackcap (L Proctor, T Mills)

Friday 15th, Penzance garden: 3 Blackcap (1m 2f). (R Phillips) There must be hundreds of Blackcaps in Cornwall in winter. If everybody sends in their sightings you should have plenty to work on. I think these days it’s called citizen science. I have had my first daily Blackcap fix this morning. A male. No doubt sightings will reduce when the berries of the myrtles finish but they will still be here. Some winter in Morrab gardens, for instance.

Thursday 14th, Swanpool: 2 Firecrest, 2 Blackcap, 3 Goldcrest at south end am. (D Chaney) Not seen, but heard ‘takking’ from dense undergowth in adjoining gardens.

Thursday 14th, Penzance: 3m Blackcap, 1 Firecrest in private garden. (R Phillips)

Week 4th -10th December: CBWPS received reports of 14 birds from 6 sites, max 3 from Swanpool and Hannafore


Behaviour/things worth noting include –

a) What food did you see them eat? (wild foodplants and/or feeder food)

b) Were they Male or Female? (black or brown cap)

c) Did you witness any aggresive interactions (mostly at feeders) between Blackcaps and any other species? Which species won?

d) Were they closely associating with each other?

e) Was song or sub-song heard?

f) Did they show a preference for natural or feeder food where both were available?

g) What vegetation/tree type were they seen in? (to species, or just evergreen/deciduous).

h) Do you see Blackcaps using birdbaths in your garden?

This list is only to give some ideas – if you note anything interesting let us know!

Please note other information such as location (eg street, tetrad) where possible rather than just town, although that will be adequate. Time of day/length of observation period /weather etc etc if you think relevant.

Male Blackcap – J Parfitt


We will post up sightings of Blackcaps as the winter progresses on this page additional to the main news on the website.



Enjoy watching your Blackcaps, in the garden or elsewhere!



Identification tips from the BTO (including a handy video) – How to spot a Blackcap

Blackcaps January 2018

23rd Jan, Mary Atkinson reports: Male blackcap feeding on fat balls in our garden 15th Jan, Callingtlon PL17 7HL

18th Jan: Lostwithiel private garden, 1x female blackcap on suet feeder again. E Mayhew.

17th Jan: female blackcap feeding on suet block and fat balls but chased off fat balls by female house sparrow on 27th Dec. Regards E Mayhew.

10th Jan: Charlestown 2 ( m + f ) Blackcaps still ( D Hastilow)

Blackcap – D Hastilow