Sunday 3 December 2023

Aerial Waxwings 29th November 2023

A recent visit to Norfolk was enlivened by the presence of a small flock of twenty plus Waxwings in a cul de sac at the back of the genteel market town of Holt.

This winter has become what is known as ' a waxwing year' where these colourful and charismatic birds pour out of their forest homes in Scandinavia and Russia in search of food, due to their usual food sources having failed in their native lands.It does not happen every year but when an irruption looks likely to arrive in Britain it brings an added frisson of excitement and expectation.

The invaders invariably seek out berry bearing trees to sustain themselves through the winter with a marked preference for cotoneaster and rowan berries and are often quite fearless wherever they settle to feed. 

The first arrivals are not unexpectedly in the north of Scotland, sometimes in large flocks which gradually split up into smaller flocks as they move southwards, roving the land. When they find some source agreeable to their needs they perch high in a tree and survey the chosen berries  below, which can be in a hedge or small tree. Any  location can be chosen, there seems no rhyme or reason apart from the fact there are suitable berries available. A cotoneaster hedge by a busy road or ornamental rowan in a supermarket car park or garden are typical favourites and the birds will seek out elevated perches in surrounding larger trees where they will wait on high and then at random intervals descend to frantically gorge on the berries as fast as they can swallow them.

Rarely remaining long, a matter of a few minutes, they then fly back up to their tall tree and sit until hunger prompts another descent.

The Waxwings at Holt were no exception and spent much of the time either in very tall trees surrounding a public school playing field or sitting on a tv aerial on a house roof before circling around and eventually flying down to scoff the berries on a rowan tree in a nearby back garden. 

The tree's position did not allow close approach but sometime the birds would happily sit on the tv aerial for some time and which was adjacent to the cul de sac, so I made the most of this opportuity to photograph them on a cold November day of grey cloud and intermittent rain.

Not the best conditions to show off these lovely birds at their best but one has to take whatever opportunity presents itself.

Hopefully, as the winter progresses more Waxwings will move southwards and there will be other opportunities to go and see them closer to home.

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