|Sorry to disappoint, but this is a photo from last Summer!|
Part of the problem was that I hadn't anticipated the need to go to such great lengths. In the past I had not really been bothered by birds stealing the fruit, which I grow in pots right up against the wall of the house. I think the birds had been too scared to come close to the house. But presumably one cocky bird plucked up enough courage to rush in and steal a ripe berry and found it to be so delicious that he couldn't resist coming back for more - and of course told all the other members of his clan too!
Another aspect of the problem was that I had allowed the plants to get tall and straggly, which made them hard to protect and less likely to produce a good crop of berries. This being so, I decided to prune the plants quite severely once they had finished fruiting. I cut out most of the old wood, whilst paying attention to the structure of the bushes, aiming to make them much more compact. This is what they look like now: they are about 3 feet tall.
As you can see, I currently have them lined-up out on the patio. Later on I think I will move them back against the house - but not until I have rehearsed how to protect them! I have recently given the pots a top-up of fresh ericaceous compost.
If you take a close look you can see how removing the old wood has stimulated the production of new shoots. The older wood is brown, and the newer wood is red:
I'm hoping that this year each plant will put up a few more shoots from the base, making them thicker and less straggly. Certainly there are lots of new twigs forming further up:
And at the tips of the twigs, little flower-buds are already forming:
My plan for protecting the crop is not yet finalised, but I'm mulling over a number of options for creating a temporary fruit-cage, perhaps using one of my nets supported on some tall bamboo canes. I'll work something out. I have plenty of time still!