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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Waxwings

It seems that the whole of the UK Midlands has been treated to a veritable Waxwing-fest this winter. I had my first brief encounter of the winter on 7th November, and was hankering after another session with them. On Saturday 8th December, after visiting my daughter's new studio on its opening day, my wife and I set off for Quorn & Woodhouse station on the Great Central Railway preservation line, where Waxwings had been reported during the previous couple of days.

We arrived to be told that a Sparrowhawk had flushed them just five minutes before we arrived. We hung around for about an hour, and then a few came back, but only stopped very briefly up in a tree, before departing very purposefully to the north-west. As we had to get home in time for a visit from our son, we departed with just a few distant shots in the bag.

Waxwings - Quorn & Woodhouse Station
On Monday 10th, encouraged by reports of a staying large flock, I set off for Loughborough. I arrived to find Waxwings everywhere! They were both sides of the main A6 road, roosting on the east side, but feeding in the blackthorns on the west side. Unfortunately, the sun was in totally the wrong direction for the feeding bushes. I then noticed a large group high up in a tree along a track, and went to investigate. I found that they were coming down to a puddle in a field to drink, but that someone had got there before me and was busy setting up sticks beside the puddle to help with photography. He then stood rather close to the puddle and the birds weren't coming - so I headed off to try the difficult shots in the feeding bush. I managed a few, in spite of the adverse light.




Waxwing - Loughborough
After a while I went back to see how the guy by the puddle was getting on. He had moved a little further away, and the birds were starting to come down. He indicated that he was happy for me to join him, so I did. The sun was a bit too low for the puddle shots, and we only had a short time before the sun dipped below the horizon. But I did manage a few more images.





Waxwing - Loughborough
I made up my mind that I'd come back early the next morning (Tuesday 11th), but before I departed I took a shot of some of the birds in the drinking-roost tree.

Waxwings - Loughborough
The next day, having set my alarm clock for an early start, and armed with hide, tripod, sticks for perches, and 8 litres of water, I scraped the ice off the windows and set off for Loughborough. I'd not travelled far from home when I realised I'd got a real problem with the clutch on the car. I continued, however, parked up as it was getting light, and found absolutely no Waxwings in sight.

I had just started to unload the car when a flock of Waxwings (possibly 50) arrived in the roost tree for the drinking puddle. They seemed to take one look at the frozen water and then departed westwards. I used this time to fill the puddle with fresh water and set up my sticks and my hide. I sat there for an hour and a half, and didn't see a single bird. Then some other people arrived and I left my hide and went over for a chat.

Whilst we were talking, a few more Waxwings (5?) arrived in the tree, and then departed again immediately. We talked for a while as other people arrived, not seeing any birds, and then my companion of the previous afternoon arrived, also armed with water and some props in the form of a bright blue pole with some clamps from what looked like jump-leads which he used to support a branch laden with berries.

To cut a long story short, only one Waxwing appeared, and it settled on the clips on the blue pole before dropping down into the water behind a large clod of earth!

Waxwing - Loughborough
Could have been a nice shot if it had settled on the berried branch! I waited for another hour or so without seeing another Waxwing, and then gave up at about 13:00, being more concerned about the car and limping it back home.

Whether I'll get any more opportunities to see Waxwings this winter remains to be seen. Most of the berries round here seem to have been stripped already - perhaps it's time to try the Scandinavian trick of placing upturned half-apples on the tops of garden canes?

14 comments:

  1. Nice images mate, I have sent you an email ref another waxwing site you may be interested in?

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    1. Thank you Paul. Not got the e-mail yet!

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  2. Hello Richard, Hereby my new comment. The first one was deleted by some reason.

    Beautiful serie of the Waxwings! Well done! I've never seen those birds.

    Have a nice evening.
    Greetings from Holland

    Willy

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    1. Thank you Willy for your kind words. I don't know how your first comment got deleted.

      This year has been a very good year for Waxwings in UK. Some years we don't see any. This year we are lucky!

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  3. That's a fantastic set of images Richard. Some helpful hints too. I hpe the car's clutch is ok.

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    1. Thank you Doug. It took them until Friday to fix the clutch, but £650 later it's fixed!

      I'm told that water is essential to Waxwings to enable them to digest the berries. They were certainly flocking to this puddle.

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  4. These are truly awesome shots of the Bohemian Waxwings Richard! The best I have ever seen. Whenever I spot Cedar Waxwing flocks here in the US, I look for Bohemians but have yet to see one in the wild.

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    1. Thank you Larry. At least you stand some sort of chance of seeing a Bohemian Waxie over there. It seems that occurrences of Cedar Waxies over here count at about one every ten years!

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  5. Hi there - great images. The waxwings do seem to be much thicker on the ground the normal! I'm jealous.

    Cheers and thanks for lining to WBW - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart. Yes, we are really lucky this year.

      Keep up the good work with WBW!

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  6. Amazing birds and beutiful images!!! Nice to meet you. Happy new year and greets.

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    1. Thank you Ander. A very happy New Year to you too!

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  7. Holy cow!!! Truly incredible images of the Waxwing. A lot of these are frame-able works of art. This bird is fascinating to me....and soon, they will be coming to Tucson in great numbers:) We have a fruit on the palms that they love to eat:)

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    1. Thank you Chris. I'd love to see some of your Cedar Waxwings - we only get the Bohemians here, and then only in a 'good year'.

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