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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Waxwing Fest - on 2nd January, 2017

I'll open by taking the opportunity to wish you all a healthy and happy New Year.


In mid-November, I'd attempted to photograph Waxwings at Lyddinton in Rutland, but only got very distant, and very brief, views. Since then I've been waiting for another opportunity to photograph these birds. I passed up on a couple of opportunities, as I was either otherwise indisposed or didn't fancy the location.

On Saturday 31st December, in spite of very dull weather, I went to Loughborough, where there had been recent sightings of Waxwings. I spent some time there, and there were a few other people looking for them, but none were seen.

I noticed that they were reported as sighted again at this location, this time in larger numbers, on the Sunday. Monday 2nd January was forecast as being sunny and so I set off back to Loughborough, which is about 15 miles (24 km) from my home, taking a picnic lunch with me.

I arrived to be told that 26 Waxwings had been there, but they'd departed northward about five minutes before my arrival. Having had a walk in that direction and found nothing, I went back to bide my time in waiting. I kept myself amused with chatting with other people, and attempting a few photos of the Mistle Thrushes, Redwings, and Fieldfares that were in the area.

After nearly an hour, the birds returned! The sun was quite strong, and, of course, low at this time of year, so it was very necessary to manoeuvre oneself to a suitable photographic viewpoint. There was a disadvantage to this being a relatively large flock compared to what is usually seen in these parts on the rare occasions that these birds visit, and this is that it is difficult to get photos of a bird in focus without the image being spoilt by neighbouring birds which are out of focus.  They do tend to stay close together! The difficulty was compounded by the trees that they were feeding in being relatively densely branched. The first image, below, will illustrate this point.

(Bohemian) Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) - Loughborough, Leicestershire
I usually restate the species in my captions to images, but will, for the following Waxwing images, just caption them with notes as appropriate.

Male Waxwings have a thicker yellow band to the end of the tail than females do. They also usually have more prominent red 'candles' on the secondaries.

male bird on left, female on right
It was not until I got home and started looking through the more than 400 frames that I had fired off that I realised that I had taken almost zero photos that showed the fabulous markings on the top side of the wings.


female

The following two images also show the upper wing markings.

female on the left, male on the right
male bird
with Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

I'd been there a while, and had observed that the Waxwings were very much drawn to a relatively small tree with orange berries (almost certainly a Sorbus cultivar) which was further up the road, and somewhat closer to the road than the other trees that they were visiting. The problem was that the road was busy with traffic, and the birds only stopped on the tree for a few seconds before they were frightened off by passing cars. After a while, I realised that this location might give me opportunities for some different shots, so I made my way over there and awaited their arrival.

Again I ran into the problem of the birds being crowded together and getting out-of-focus birds spoiling an image in which the main subject was in focus. They were also tending to feed in the far (shaded) side of the tree as the traffic was approaching them from the sunny side. Here's a couple of images with the birds in the tree - at least I managed to get one shot with a single bird!



As the birds were only alighting on the tree for a few seconds before flying off again, It gave some opportunity to try for flight shots. Again, the crowding together of the birds posed a problem - and they do fly rather swiftly and erratically! Here are a few with them landing in the tree.




I tried for some flight shots, but I didn't do as well as I might have done as I made the mistake of trying to compromise with my camera settings to allow me to make both static shots of the birds in the tree and flight shots - this was very tempting to do as the birds were back and forth almost continually at one point. As they were flying around, the birds stayed in relatively close formation, with all pointing in the same direction. Just before they landed, the neat formation broke up and I rather like the semi-chaos that resulted! Here are a few flight shots which didn't come out too badly.







This last Waxwing image is, I confess, a cheat. I rather like the shape made by the right hand bird, although I wish that I'd got them a bit sharper, and with better light. However, there was a third bird which was badly out of focus, which I have digitally removed!


The Supporting Cast

Whilst the Waxwings were away between visits, I occupied myself by photographing some of the thrushes that were around.


Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
As I departed the area, some of the Waxwings were high up in a distant conifer.

(Bohemian) Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) - Loughborough
I'd had a most enjoyable session, even if I didn't get THE SHOT that I'd hoped for.

I returned to the site briefly today (Thursday 5th January) with pal John. This time I didn't compromise in trying to get the flight shots in the short time we were there but, until I get them up on the computer, I have no idea whether I got it right this time.

Thank you for dropping by.

26 comments:

  1. I have turned green now, green with envy, seeing your wonderful pictures of the Waxwings :) They are beautiful birds :) I wish you and your wife a happy new year!

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    1. Thank you, Lin. We are very lucky to get the Waxwings here in good years. I guess they are quite rare as far south as you are?

      I wish you and Terry a great 2017 - - - Richard

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  2. Excellent set Richard. Not a sniff of any in East Kent. A good start to the year for the camera.

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    1. Thank you, Marc. There seemed to be a bit of an influx of them during the week between Christmas and New Year. Maybe, as they devour all the berries in these parts, they'll make their way down to you?

      My vest wishes to you for 2017 - - - Richard

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  3. HAPPY NEW YEAR. Wow! You really did see and photograph a lot of Waxwings, Brilliant

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    1. I was very lucky to have these relatively close to my home, Margaret.

      My very best wishes to you for 2017, wherever you are (still in Malawi?) - - - Richard

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  4. Hello Richard, What a great serie of the Waxwings. Finaly you succeeded in finding these amazing birds. Some great captures! A great start of the New Year. Thank you for your wishes.
    Regards,
    Roos

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    1. Thank you, Roos. It did take a while to find some. They do seem to have very special characters!

      Take good care, and stay healthy - - - - Richard

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  5. You did a brilliant job capturing the Waxwing in different positions,for once time was on your side,after a long wait,you had your reward.
    Also a bonus with the Redwing, Feildfare, and Mistle Thrush,good days shoot,with excellent results,which makes me very envious.
    John.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, John. The shot that I was really hoping for was one of a Waxwing tossing a berry into the air and catching it again. However, I'm happy to have got these images.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  6. It's a red letter day to have so many cooperative waxwings and the various thrushes (two of which I have never seen) were the icing on the cake. Great outing, Richard.

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    1. It was a great day, David, and very much the highlight of this winter, so far. I'm guessing that the two thrushes that you've not seen are Redwing and Fieldfare (I'm sure we saw Mistle Thrushes in Scotland together). Visit central England in mid-winter, and seeing them during a day out is almost guaranteed.

      Love to you both.

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  7. Hello Richard. Happy this year! Just stunning waxwing pictures. Waxwings has a beautiful voice. Greetings from the cold here.

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    1. Thank you, Anne for your kind words and wishes. I was not able to hear the Waxwings above the noise of the cars on the road! It has warmed up here and is now above freezing, but dull, misty and damp.

      I hope that you are keeping warm - - - Richard

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  8. Absolutely brilliant pictures. What I find interesting about the Waxwings is how they target each berry bush one at a time. Clearing one fully before they move on to the next.

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    1. Hi Findlay. Thank you for your kind words.

      These Waxwings were behaving a little differently to most of those I've seen before. Whilst this one particular tree was their prime target, they were being scared off by the passing vehicles. This resulted in them visiting some Rowan trees further down the road and taking the berries from those until they plucked up courage to re-assemble and descend, en-masse, on the orange-berried sorbus.

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  9. Happy New Year Richard. It seems in our region it was Sunday and Monday that various flocks moved about. You succeeded much better then I did in get flight shots. They really do seem to like sorbus.
    I really do like the Mistle Thrush, a bird that seems to be around in good numbers but overlooked.

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    1. Happy New Year to you too, Doug. I've now reveiwed the shots I took of the Waxwings three days after that session and I didn't do as well, although I was only there for a short while so I guess it's not surprising.

      I seem to be seeing more Mistle Thrushes than usual this winter, and am wondering if we've got an influx from Northern Europe (like the Redwings, Fieldfares and Waxies).

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  10. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. You have a really way of shooting, you caught the Waxwings brilliantly.
    I have a section devoted to Waxwing, http://bobswildlife.co.uk/sightings/WinterWaxwingWatch.php Try it, cheers.

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    1. Thank you, Bob, for your very kind words. I've visited your Waxwing Sightings page, and see that my pal, John Truman, has already put up an entry for these birds at Loughborough, Leicestershire. If you want to use any of my photos on your page you are very welcome to do so.

      Best wishes - - Richard

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  11. Hi Richard, it was absolute chaos with so many birds in one not that large a tree, you have managed some wonderful images of such a delightful striking bird, also some great images of Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare. Such a shame the birds were being disturbed by the traffic. Still plenty of berries on the tree, may be we will get another chance if the weather improves. Regards John

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    1. Thanks, John. It certainly was a bit chaotic at times. It seems that they have gone now as no reports of them lately.

      See you soon!

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  12. Hi Richard,

    it is a beautiful series of waxwings. I unfortunately they can not shoot, so I enjoy it twice here. Flying waxwings are successful. Wonderful to see. Besides beautiful Kramsvoigels, Redwings and mistle thrush. I enjoy these beautiful birds.

    Greetings, Helma

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    1. Thank you, Helma. I was lucky to have fine weather, and super birds to play with!

      My best wishes - - - Richard

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  13. Wow Richard amazing photos of the Waxwings. I have never seen them here and looking them up they do not appear to be in our area :-( Great shots of them in the tree, and in the air.
    Thrushes are another bird we never see here! I gather that they are a French speciality so I guess they have all been eaten!!!!!
    We had a dreadful trip to the UK at Christmas. Both of us were really ill, and still in only recovery mode now back in France. Hope you have a good week and we wish you all the very best for 2017, Diane

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    1. Hi Diane. Thank you for your kind words. I believe that Waxwings in your neck of the woods would be very rare indeed.You should be able to see the Mistle Thrushes at any time of year, but the Fieldfare and Redwing would be strictly winter visitors.

      So sorry to hear that your Christmas visit to UK was a disaster, and that you are still unwell. There are a lot of nasty bugs around at the moment which are long-lingering.

      Get well soon, and have a great 2017 - - - Richard

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