Strictly not for the birds!
The fruit trees in the garden have tested my patience. Although the apples produced a respectable crop last year, the pears and plums have been decidedly unfruitful. This is not unexpected because they need a couple of years to make growth (which they certainly have done) and start to bloom. The three pears produced one fruit last year – that is one fruit between them, not one fruit each! Out of ‘Clapp’s Favourite’, ‘Beth’ and ‘Concorde’ only the latter decided to crop, if you can call a single fruit a crop! But the plums were not even that productive.
This is slightly disappointing from five plum trees and a damson. But it was not all their fault – they did produce flower buds. Plums can fail to fruit for various reasons, the most common, and the one I will have to suffer every year, along with the plums themselves, is late frosts that damage the flowers or prevent pollination by making the bees shiver in their holes. Plums are not always self-fertile but at least one of mine (‘Jubileum’) is, and I do have others for pollination (‘Opal’, Early Rivers’ and a Mirabelle’.
The other plum is ‘Lizzie’ and is also self-fertile which is just as well because it flowers far earlier than the others. It is a Japanese plum (Prunus salicina) and is supposed to be frost resistant, but so far it has not set a fruit. There are thousands of flowers and buds so maybe this is the year.
But the big problem last year was not a lack of buds, or that they were frosted, but bullfinches that stripped all the buds off as soon as there was a hint of white. They worked their way over the trees and removed every flower. I have noticed that a handsome little bullfinch has been joining the robins and tits on the bird feeders in the past week so I hope I am in time with the bangs and flashes this year and I might get a crop. Hopefully this is the first stage in ensuring a crop – just the frosts and wasps to worry about now!
Bullfinches are common along our road, generally on a spot about 500m away, but I rarely see them in the garden and don’t wish to either. They can be a right bother with the fruit trees – which reminds me that I have failed to source and plant a few new apple trees, something I had planned to do last autumn.
You still have time to get that apple!
Lots of birds like sweet things and I suspect that they attack the buds and flowers to get nectar. Sparrows attack crocus too and I suspect that this is to get to nectar too. I can’t think of any strictly nectar-feeding birds in the UK but that doesnt mean no birds like sweet things – confirmed by blackbirds attacking ripe fruits.
Yes, I must put my mind to it.
I have noticed this too, do they do this for food, or is there another reason?