Today got off to a really good start: as I walked to work I saw a tree near our house with lots of birds in. We get big flocks of starlings in our neck of the woods, but looking at these birds closely, I could see they all had little quiffs, and were definitely not starlings. They were trilling away happily, and there must have been 40 to 50 of them. They were waxwings!
This winter has been a particularly good year for spotting waxwings in the UK, but I’d not seen a single one until now. We’ve had redwings and fieldfares in our garden until recently, and I thought that now Spring is on the way, my chances of seeing a waxwing had waned. So it’s really made my day to see them, especially in such numbers. I must have stood on the corner of our road for ten minutes or more, looking up at the big tree they were all sitting in. Behind me was another smaller tree, heavy with red berries, and small groups of them kept flying over to that to eat, flying back to the larger tree whenever a car passed.
Of course I didn’t have my camera with me, so this picture comes from the RSPB website. If you visit the RSPB site, you can also hear a recording of waxwings – and there are some excellent photos of waxwings here.
I’ve only seen waxwings once before: some years ago, we saw a flock of them on a tree near where we used to live. But this year they’ve been over here in larger numbers than usual:
“Experts said it was the best year for almost half a century to spot the exquisitely marked bohemian waxwing, slightly smaller than a starling, with a prominent reddish-brown crest, black eye mask and yellow-tipped tail. In normal years fewer than 100 visit these shores, mainly wintering on the east coast of northern England and Scotland. Occasionally larger flocks, or irruptions, are evident during “waxwing winters” when the population outgrows traditional breeding grounds.
This year’s invasion is said to be exceptional, driven partly by severe weather in northern Europe and Russia. “This is probably the best for 30 to 40 years,” said Richard Bashford, the garden birdwatch project manager, who two weeks ago awoke to 26 waxwings trilling from a tree in his Cambridgeshire garden.
Flocks, which usually number between 10 and 100 and are rarely seen inland, have been reported in many parts of England and Wales, including Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. They are attracted to the berries on shrubs and trees, especially rowan, found in gardens and around town centres and car parks.”
When I walked home tonight, I noticed that tree they’d been eating berries from still had plenty of berries left on its branches, so I will be going out tomorrow morning to see if they have come back.