Sunday 21 January 2024

The Waxwings of Rodborough Common 20th January 2024

There is only one thing better than a Waxwing and that is a flock of them. Fortunately for me a flock of between thirty and forty have been frequenting Rodborough Common near Stroud in Gloucestershire which is less than an hour's drive from my home.

The Waxwings, present for over a week now have been creating quite a sensation with birders and public alike, as Rodborough Common is a site of biological and geological interest as well as a popular place for recreation with the wider public.It is bisected by a busy road with two small car parks right by the road and as luck would have it exactly where the waxwings have chosen to feed on some scattered windswept hawthorn bushes that lie alongside the road on the opposite side to the car parks.

The Waxwings fed on the two small hawthorn bushes right by the road

I was unsure what to expect as this would be a first visit to Rodborough Common for me. I found an open, windswept area of grassland situated at some elevation. All very pleasant but would I know where to go to see the birds? I need not have worried as on arriving there was no mistaking where the waxwings were. Right by the road!

Just in case I was in any doubt a line of people were stood on the verge by the road pointing cameras at a hawthorn bush festooned with waxwings. 

I hastily parked the car, grabbed camera and bins, hat and gloves and made my way to join the throng.

The Waxwings retreated to a larger hawthorn behind the car park and then flew across the road to a tall tree about a hundred metres from the road, settling right at the top but soon flew back to the hawthorn bushes.Unfortunately with the bushes being so close to the road they were constantly disturbed by passing cars so never remained for more than a minute before fleeing but they always eventually returned. In the meantime they would perch in any one of a number of large trees. 

For the next two hours I watched and photographed them flying back and fore from whatever large tree they chose to perch in to whatever hawthorn they decided to feed on. Compared to rowan and cotoneaster berries the hawthorn berries looked past their best and far less appetising but the Waxwings fed on them voraciously

Occasionally they would descend into the car park and drink from a very muddy area of floodwater, sinking their bills into what appeared to be more mud than water before flying off back to the trees.

One bird I saw had coloured rings on its legs - blue on the right and green, yellow and white on the left -which identified it as a juvenile male having been ringed by the Grampian Ringing Group at New Elgin in Scotland on 13th of November 2023. It was then seen in a flock of 250+ birds at Hassop Station in Derbyshire between the 29th of December 2023 and the 5th of January 2024 before being seen at Rodborough Common on the 16th of January 2024 where it has been reported daily up to now.

Note the blue ring on the bird's right leg.The other coloured rings on the left leg
are obscured by feathers

Two hours passed very quickly, testing my camera against the varying light and erratic behaviour of the waxwings but it was immensely enjoyable.I was reluctant to leave as such an event is unlikely to happen again for some years. As I drove off the flock circled over my car as if in a farewell flypast.

I think I will be back.

There are still plenty of berries left.

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