Monday, November 26, 2012

Waxwing Invasion

There can't be many birders in the UK at the moment who are not aware of the current influx of Waxwings into the country. I'm not certain of exact numbers but I would not be at all surprised to find out that in excess of 5 000 birds are currently devouring berries, especially Rowan berries, wherever there is a good supply. Waxwings are prone to these irruptions, moving south in large numbers when food is scarce or conditions are harsh in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.
I took these photographs of a couple of obliging individuals just across the road from Asda in Grantham this afternoon. A weekly shopping trip was suddenly made a lot more interesting. There were seven birds visible, one taking up station at the top of a TV aerial, four flighty individuals and two seemingly content to sit out the entire winter in a lone Rowan.
Five of the birds gave calls in flight and when perched - a trilling 'sirrrr' that is so easily recognised. Because these birds were in a residential area, as they so often are, some of the local people were keen to find out what was happening. Every time this happens people are always interested and very positive about both the birds and the birders.
Talking to people about the Waxwings and letting them peer through your binoculars often engenders a kind of protective instinct. They become their birds and are watched and enjoyed. Hopefully these winter birds do a good job in recruiting people as birders.
 A couple of years back, during the 'Waxwing winter' of 2010 a party of 13 birds rested up in a plum tree in our garden and last year there were about twenty birds feeding in the trees around our local bus-stop. It looks pretty much as though this winter is going to measure up to some of the really big Waxwing years.

I would hazard a guess that this bird is an adult female. The back is really grey as can be seen in the fourth photo, the red appendages on the secondary tips are quite small and there doesn't appear to be many. I would expect an adult male to have a stronger black bib and more sharply defined markings on the wings and tail.


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